Tennessee Stat Book
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There were no classes at Oregon that taught how to stop its spread offense.
Prior experience shutting down the Ducks apparently doesn't qualify Justin Wilcox as an expert either.
But the former Oregon defensive back helped build his reputation as one of the top coordinators in the college game by bottling up his alma mater last year at Boise State, and Tennessee could certainly use his secrets against the No. 7 Ducks (1-0) on Saturday (TV: ESPN2, 7 p.m.). The problem is Wilcox swears there aren't any.
"There is no magic defense out there," Wilcox said after practice Wednesday. "There's no magic pill for any of that stuff. I think the key to playing good defense against anybody is you have to play disciplined, you've got to play assignment football and you've got to tackle well. There are going to be times when people have to make some one-on-one plays in the pass game and in the run game, and you've got to get people on the ground.
"Especially with these guys, because they create so much space. They've got such good speed - that's their advantage. That's how they create those explosive plays, they get one-on-one and make somebody miss."
The Ducks didn't get any room to operate against Wilcox and the Broncos a year ago, and the only explosion was the one after the game when the frustration from a 19-8 loss spilled over into a sucker punch from Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount.
Until that point, Boise State did all the hitting - holding that high-powered spread attack to a meager 152 yards, just six first downs and only one third-down conversion to give Wilcox another signature moment on his resume.
It also gave him a second win over his old school to go with a 37-32 decision at Oregon in 2008, though the Vols (1-0) have tried all week to downplay anything they can really take from those games.
"It's a different scenario, it's a different team, but we do obviously have similar defenses - I mean, it is the defense that Boise ran that you saw again on Monday night (against Virginia Tech)," linebacker Nick Reveiz said. "Basically there are a lot of similarities, but with Coach Wilcox, it's a different team, it's a different league, it's a different year.
"So, we're not banking on what happened with Boise State and Oregon. This is Tennessee 2010, but we're excited with our ability and what we have there."
Whether or not that ability is better, worse or equal to Boise State's has been up for debate, though UT has generally recruited at a much higher level than the Western Athletic Conference member.
Attrition over the last couple of seasons has helped level any of the difference between the two programs. But with all things being equal, there's now one major similarity in the guy calling the shots.
"I don't like comparing players or programs, I really don't," Wilcox said. "I think we have a lot of great kids on this team. I think we're working hard and making progress in a lot of areas, on the field and with our approach off the field. How to practice, how to finish in practice and how to finish in games - that's not an overnight thing, and the guys are working at it and we're getting better and better.
"But these games come down to fundamentals. It's not some magic thing that you just do this week."
If anybody has the formula for stopping the Ducks though, it's Wilcox. The secret might be out if it works again with new ingredients.