KNOXVILLE — Tennessee's defense might not have much to go on from Charlie Weis' first two games as Florida's offensive coordinator.
But in reality, the Volunteers might have too much to go on.
The 16th-ranked Gators easily won their first two games this season, but Weis has been running offenses as a coordinator or head coach since becoming the New York Jets' coordinator in 1997.
"You've got a ton of formations, and he obviously is excellent at what he does," UT defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said after practice Wednesday morning. "You do the research on Coach Weis, and throughout his tenure he's got every play and formation known to mankind. I would assume we're going to see something different than what we've seen on tape."
Offensive success has followed Weis wherever he's gone as a playcaller, including three Super Bowl titles with the New England Patriots. His offense finished in the top 15 in passing during three of his five years as Notre Dame's head coach, and the Kansas City Chiefs led the NFL in rushing last season with Weis calling the plays.
"If you go look at Charlie's history," UT coach Derek Dooley said, "if you just pulled up the first two games and then last year's Kansas City Chiefs, there's 10,000 different plays. You do the best you can."
UT linebackers coach Peter Sirmon spent seven years in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans and twice faced the Patriots's offense under Weis.
"I just hope he doesn't bring Tom Brady with him," he said with a grin. "He has a lot of offense. He can do a lot of different things and he's been very adaptive with the personnel that he's had. That's the biggest thing to show he can do a lot of different things with multiple tight ends, multiple receivers, multiple backs. I don't know what to expect."
What the Vols can do is expect to see plenty of Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, the Gators' two speedy tailbacks. The two seniors are also track stars, and Florida tries to get them ball as much as possible, either by simply handing or tossing it to them or throwing it to them on flare routes and swing passes.
Rainey leads the Gators in both rushing and receiving, and the two of them have touched the ball on nearly 40 percent of Florida's offensive plays through two games even though Demps left last week's win against UAB in the first half with an injury.
"When you watch a lot of tape on these guys," UT secondary coach Terry Joseph said, "they try to get the ball to the perimeter and try to make your corners and safeties makes some tackles. I think the key is setting the edge of the field, and hopefully somewhere around the numbers we can cut down the space a little bit. I think there's not too many guys in America who can tackle these guys in the open field one on one.
"If we can reduce the space they have to run in, it helps our chance of getting them on the ground."
UT's coaches emphasized the importance of sticking to the scheme and playing fundamental football in stopping whatever Weis throws at them.
"It's going to come down to, No. 1, playing the defense on principle," Dooley said. "There are going to be plays that we didn't prepare for, and we've got to play the play on principles of [our] scheme. No. 2, our ability to get off blocks and run to the ball and tackle. Those two things make up for anything you're going to be minimizing in preparation.
"It's a new staff, they've played two games where it was over at halftime, they haven't shown their stuff and we're going to see it this week."
Cincinnati threw some new formations and personnel groupings that UT hadn't seen before last week, and the Vols struggled with tackling and alignments early in the game before settling in and slowing down the Bearcats. Even amid the chess match, the Vols will need the same simple approach this week.
"You can expect anything," defensive line coach Lance Thompson said. "We've watched games from Kansas City, Notre Dame [and] two games at Florida. We're trying to get ready for everything, but it's going to come back to getting lined up, getting your eyes on your keys [and] playing with good fundamentals."
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...