Out for blood

The candidates in the Presidential debates could learn a lot from Tennessee defensive tackles coach Dan Brooks. He recently summed up the Vol-Mississippi State game in 13 well-chosen words:

"It's one of those games where you're going to get your nose bloodied."

That's because the Bulldogs' offensive system is all power and no finesse. They hit you in the mouth. Then, while you're counting your teeth, they hit you in the mouth again. That's the kind of game that awaits the Vol defense tonight at 7 in Neyland Stadium.

"It'll be physical," Brooks said. "The back (6-1, 240-pound Anthony Dixon) is big, and they run it at you a bunch with the power game off tackle."

Asked if the Vols have faced such a physical offense this fall, Brooks shook his head.

"Probably not," he said. "Everybody's been a little more mixed. But that's their MO, and they do a good job of it. They did a good job of it last Saturday (in beating Vanderbilt 17-14). We know our work's cut out for us to stop the run."

Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis offers a similar preview of the Bulldogs' attack.

"They're a downhill team that's going to get behind their pads, try to block you and knock you off the ball upfront," he said. "They're very, very physical in the approach they take."

Although Dixon (427 rushing yards) is the primary weapon, he is no one-man offense. The Bulldogs attack in waves.

"They're power and they come at you," Brooks said. "They've used three tailbacks, three fullbacks, three tight ends. They play a number of people."

When you're playing that style of hardnosed offense, you HAVE to play a lot of people. When you're defending that style of hardnosed offense, you have to do the same. Whether Tennessee's front seven has the depth to withstand this type of onslaught for 60 minutes remains to be seen.

With that in mind, Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis vows to substitute more than usual this weekend.

"We always say that until we get in the game," he deadpanned. "Then you get in those crucial situations and you want your best people in there. But we've got to do a better job – and I've got to do a better job at linebacker in particular."

If Chavis doesn't keep his players fresh, Mississippi State's smash-mouth brand of football could wear down the Vols in the fourth quarter – much as Georgia did last weekend.

"They can," Chavis said. "Absolutely."


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