October 5, 2006

Coker faces big test

Simply from looking at the stat sheet, it's hard to argue that Tennessee starting tailback Lamarcus Coker hasn't put a collective 'pep in the step' of the Vols running game. His numbers since he started getting the bulk of the carries are strong to say the least, but he's about to face by far the biggest challenge of his young career against a Georgia defense that is among the nation's best.

In the last two games, Coker has carried the ball 34 times for 272 yards. Of those 34 carries, 19 have gone for four yards or more and only one carry has resulted in negative yardage. But Marshall and Memphis are not Georgia and obviously the challenge is much different this week for the Antioch, Tennessee native.

In the first three games, the Georgia defense surrendered just 170 yards rushing. Colorado and Ole Miss combined in the last two games for 329 yards on the ground. And neither of those teams can boast the kind of passing attack that Tennessee has shown through its first five games. The kind of passing game that should give safeties something to worry about other than plugging running lanes.

Can Tennessee find the kind of success that Bulldog opponents have had in the last two weeks? One would think so, but this is the same Tennessee offense that produced a grand total of minus-11 yards rushing in the SEC opener against Florida.

The hope for the running game centers on the small scat back from Nashville, who knows he has his hands full Saturday night.

"Georgia's defense is real fast," Coker said. "SEC defenses are loaded with speed. I think that will be the biggest difference. The SEC is a tough physical, conference. I think the speed difference is something that you have to adjust to when you get into the SEC. Defenses also play a lot more aggressive in the SEC."

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