Oct. 8, 2009
BY DREW EDWARDS
It takes more than a few losses to keep Monte Kiffin from smiling.
Tennessee's defensive coordinator, lamenting a couple of close losses to UCLA and Auburn, still managed to produce a few chuckles.
"You know what gets me? We are like eight points from being 4-1..." Kiffin said while meeting with reporters following practice on Thursday. "That's a touchdown and a two-point play, right? I went to Nebraska, so I can add. I know that we got beat 19-15 (against UCLA), that's four, right? And 26-22 (against Auburn), that's four.
"So four and four is nine, right?"
But talking about Georgia's offense, particularly 6-foot-4, 207-pound receiver A.J. Green, he was a little less jovial.
Green leads the SEC in receiving through five games. He's averaging 105 receiving yards per game and he's caught at least one touchdown pass in each of Georgia's last four games.
"I'll tell you what, Green is something else," Kiffin said. "He's special. I told our guys, `Terrell Owens and Randy Moss in his heyday, that's what this guy is.' Just throw it up and he'll go get it."
While Kiffin isn't opposed to double-covering receivers from time to time, he said that receiver Tavarres King makes that a tough proposition. King has 10 catches for 170 yards and a touchdown this season.
"I do believe you can double guys, but it's hard to do against these guys," Kiffin said. "We don't plan on doing it, because they'll just go to the other side."
Kiffin also mentioned Georgia's tight ends, Aron White and Orson Charles. The Vols recruited the 6-foot-3 Charles heavily out of Tampa, Fla., and he's the Bulldogs' third leading receiver entering Saturday's game.
"They've got two good tight ends," Kiffin said. "And they got a guy named Orson Charles. We got to know him pretty good. I lived in Tennessee. Got to see the kid grow up. It'd be nice if he was right here at the University of Tennessee, so now we've got to play defense against him."
If there's a bright spot, it's that Georgia's offense has lost 13 turnovers this season, a total that ranks 101st in the nation. It's been equal opportunity, too.
Georgia has lost seven fumbles and thrown six interceptions. First-year starter Joe Cox has thrown at least one interception in all five games this season.
But the Vols haven't exactly been picking off passes like they were last season.
Through five games last season, Tennessee had nine interceptions. This year, it only has three, and one of those belongs to defensive end Chris Walker.
"We need to get some interceptions," Kiffin said. "I do think that those come in bunches sometimes, you know. We certainly need to. We need to get some field position for our offense. We haven't had those turnovers at that end of the field like we did early."
A change in luck wouldn't hurt, either.
Auburn fumbled twice last week and recovered both times. Ohio fumbled twice and lost one. And UCLA fumbled six times and only lost one.
The Vols have been pretty solid forcing fumbles - seven in five games - but recovering them is another matter.
"It's going to bounce our way one of these days, and we got to go get it," Kiffin said. "Our guys are really hustling. When you lose, we didn't play good enough. Our guys are hustling. They're hitting, and when the ball does get out, we've got to get it."