The Maryland challenge, of course, is Tuesday night in the Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. A win would enable the Vols to finish the 2002 season on a four-game winning streak and carry a little momentum into 2003.
Whereas Tennessee's offense struggled all season long, the Vol defense played well with a couple of notable exceptions -- a 30-13 loss to Florida and a 34-14 setback to Alabama. Injuries forced defensive coordinator John Chavis to shuffle his personnel on a weekly basis but he generally managed to keep things moving forward.
''I was asked during the year if I ever get frustrated,'' Chavis said. ''My answer was 'no' then and it's 'no' today, because when you see young people grow and make progress and you know they're giving the kind of effort you expect, then the results will be there.''
Chavis added that during Sunday's practice he noticed five injured Vols watching from the sidelines who would be starting in the Southeastern Conference.
''That's what we've had to deal with and our guys have been very resilient,'' he said. ''They've stepped forward, they've made progress and I think it'll pay off for us down the road.''
Tennessee has battled through the loss of 18 starters this year who have missed a combined 65 games because of injuries, including such offensive performers as Casey Clausen, Kelley Washington and Cedric Houston. Defensively, those players to which Chavis alluded would have been Constantin Ritzmann, Kevin Burnett, Kevin Simon, Robert Peace and Eddie Moore.
Moore has not missed a game in his collegiate career. He and fellow senior Will Ofenheusle have played in 49 games each heading into the Maryland contest. Moore may have to sit out Tuesday's game, however, because of lingering effects from knee surgery underwent after the regular season. Senior Steven Marsh would take Moore's place at linebacker.
''Steven came on in the second half of the Mississippi State game and did a tremendous job for us when Eddie was hurt,'' Chavis said. ''He's had great preparation and I feel very, very confident in his abilities. You miss a little leadership because of knowledge and experience but if Eddie can't go I'm going to expect us to play just as well.''