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Defensive Vols prepare for brutal road trip

Talking Points for 2/8/10, with links and excerpts after the jump:

  1. The common denominator in wins against Florida, LSU, and South Carolina? Excellent defense resulting in very low shooting percentages for opponents.
  2. Wayne Chism will destroy you with his eyes closed if you try to defend him from behind. Expect opponents to do less of that in the future.
  3. Get ready for a really tough stretch of games, starting with games at Vandy and at Kentucky, sandwiching a game against the Georgia team that's beaten both us and the Commodores, and ending with games at South Carolina and at Florida.
  4. No news on Cam Tatum yet.
  5. The more we learn about the Vols' new coaching staff, the more there is to like. Vols thinking small
The Big Orange has been forcing opponents to put up some especially small numbers from 3-point range lately. Florida shot just 25.0 percent (4 of 16) in losing 61-60 on Jan. 31. LSU shot 21.7 (5 of 23) in losing 59-54 on Feb. 4 and South Carolina shot 25.0 percent (7 of 28) in losing 79-53 on Saturday. Tennessee's defense has been especially tough at the start of games. The Vols allowed a season-low 16 first-half points vs. LSU, then matched that number Saturday vs. Carolina.

Chism chiseled with 30 points against South Carolina " GoVolsXtra
"They give you an angle that you can feel, without really seeing them,’’ said Chism, who was 11-of-17 shooting including 2 of 4 beyond the 3-point arc. "I could basically hit that shot with my eyes closed, and I think a couple of times I did.’’

"The defensive has been a constant,’’ Pearl said. "That’s the second team we’ve held to 16 points in the first half (LSU was the other).

Chattanooga Times Free Press | Vols win in a romp
The Vols now embark on what Steven Pearl called "our biggest week of the regular season." They'll play at No. 18 Vanderbilt on Tuesday and at No. 4 Kentucky on Saturday.

The Vols wanted to forced the ball inside to Chism on offense, because South Carolina shot-blocker Sam Muldrow plays behind opponents on the low block.

Strange: Vols can feel 'good' about things " GoVolsXtra
During the next 16 days, the Vols face the season’s most daunting stretch of basketball. Four of the next five games are on the road, all against SEC East opponents. It starts Tuesday at Vanderbilt, the Vols’ third game in six days. Up next, on Saturday, is Rupp Arena. You may have heard, Kentucky has improved a bit since last year. After a Feb. 17 pit stop to do laundry and hit this team’s favorite training table, Waffle House — and play Georgia — it’s back into the jungle, at South Carolina and then Florida.

Steven Pearl can smile about playing time " GoVolsXtra
LSU fans heckled Tennessee redshirt junior Steven Pearl from the time he entered the game in Baton Rouge, La., Thursday night. Pearl smiled back at the fans and proceeded to hold star player Tasmin Mitchell without a basket for the 10 minutes he guarded him.

Tatum Sidelined: UT sophomore wing Cameron Tatum is not expected to travel with the team to Vanderbilt as a result of the ankle injury he suffered in the first half of Saturday's win over South Carolina. Tatum has undergone a variety of diagnostic tests, the results of which have yet to be released.

Tatum, Goins glad to have second chance " GoVolsXtra
"The lesson I learned was to be extremely cautious,'' said Tatum, a redshirt sophomore in his third year with the Vols. "I mean, how often do you look under the seats when you get in your friend's car? "The hardest part is knowing that some people who don't know me will assume and speculate, and I can understand that,'' said Tatum, who was driving the car when it was stopped for speeding the morning after the players returned from a New Year's Eve event. "But the people who do know me and have stuck by me know I wouldn't be associated with any of those things (guns and drugs).''

Chattanooga Times Free Press | Dooley officially hires ex-Vol Smith
Smith's list of tutored pupils features plenty of quality mixed in with its quantity. He has mentored former UT stars Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis and Robert Ayers as well as fellow NFL linemen Richard Seymour, Osi Umenyiora, Jonathan Babaneaux, Shaun Rogers, Patrick Kerney and Larry English. NFL star linebackers Ray Lewis and Bart Scott also have learned from Smith, whose reputation as a pass-rushing expert has increased rapidly the past few years.

Adams: Impressive numbers back Wilcox hire " GoVolsXtra
As un-WAC as this might read, Boise didn't go 14-0 and finish fourth nationally in 2009 solely by posting basketball-size scores. It ranked 14th nationally in total defense and third in turnovers gained. And that's not just against the WAC. TCU averaged 51 points in the last four games of an unbeaten regular season. It scored 10 in a seven-point loss to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. Oregon scored 42 or more points in five consecutive Pac-10 games. It scored eight in the season opener against Boise State. The WAC might not prepare a defensive coordinator for SEC talent, but it does prepare him for wielding short straws.

Hooker: Grading the 2010 signing class " GoVolsXtra
If it were a player, the 2010 class would be Billy Ratliff, the former defensive tackle who overcame injury after injury to have one of the most respected careers in recent memory. Like Ratliff, UT battled back over and over again to secure its signing class. First, there were the secondary violations. (Does anybody even remember hostesses-gate?) Then, there were the assistant coaching changes. Then, the coaching change. Then, the snowstorm.

Nance’s friendship main reason Da’Rick Rogers now with Vols | AJC College Sports Recruiting
It requires some context to understand Da’Rick Rogers’ decision to leave Georgia at the altar on the eve of national signing day and follow his best friend Nash Nance to Tennessee.

2010 Signing Day: Quarterbacks | UT Sports TV
A look at the quarterbacks from the Vols signing class of 2010.