Upward mobility

Offensive coordinator Dave Clawson spent Tennessee's first six games watching from the press box as his troops played miserably. Defensive coordinator John Chavis spent the first six games watching from the sidelines as his troops played fairly well.

It wasn't surprising that one coordinator decided to switch locations in Game 7. What WAS surprising is that the move was made by Chavis, not Clawson. Although his defenders were doing a relatively good job, "Chief" decided to relocate to the press box.

The obvious question: Why?

"It's a little bit quieter environment," Chavis said. "The biggest thing is being able to see personnel, see things happen on the field and get (that information) to our defense quicker. That's the biggest thing we have to be able to do: We have to communicate with signals, get the calls in to them (players)."

High-speed communication was especially crucial against Mississippi State last weekend because of the fast pace the Bulldogs utilize.

"Mississippi State did a tremendous job (in previous games) of getting people into an uptempo situation, where they were getting to the line and snapping the ball quick," Chavis noted. "Defenses were not ready."

The coordinator figured he could recognize tendencies and make adjustments quicker in the press box. That way his defenders wouldn't be scrambling to get lined up as the Dogs were quick-snapping the ball.

"We didn't want to do that. That doesn't look good when that happens," Chavis said. "We want to be able to get the call to our defense as quickly as possible, to get them settled where they can play."

The ploy must have worked because Tennessee limited Mississippi State to 189 total yards and zero touchdowns in a 34-3 romp. So, why didn't Chavis move to the press box before? Because that location creates a problem while it is solving one.

"From my standpoint, there is a downside, and that's (sacrificing) the eye-to-eye contact you have with your players," the coordinator said. "Certainly, I don't like missing that. When you're around guys long enough, that eye-to-eye contact will tell you a lot of what's going on on the field."

Chavis figures eye-to-eye contact is not as important with a veteran 2008 defense as it was with some earlier defenses. The 2001 defense, for instance. That was the year that he moved downstairs from the press box to the sidelines.

"We had a very young defense, and we were not playing very well," he recalled. "I just felt like I needed to be there with 'em – to be able to look 'em in the eye when they came off the field, to be able to communicate just like it was in practice.

"There has to be a comfort zone there. The more mature you are, the less important that is. But it is important with a young football team."

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