Smoke and mirrors

Smoke and mirrors

There's a reason that most magicians have a sexy assistant beside them. It's called misdirection. If you get people looking at one thing, it's easier to fool them with something else.

The same principle applies to offensive football. To wit: Send a man in motion to one side of the field but, when the defense shifts to that side, you run the ball to the opposite side. Or line up with an empty backfield to suggest that a pass play is coming, then run a quarterback draw. Or have your linemen block to the left, then run a play to the right.

This type of misdirection can be ultra successful if defenders get caught up in all of the movement and forget to follow the football. That's one of the major sermons Tennessee's new defensive staff is preaching this year.

In fact, when asked recently to pinpoint the biggest lesson he has learned from new Vol defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, superstar safety Eric Berry replied:

"The biggest thing is, 'You see a lot, you see a little. You see nothing, you see a lot.' That's basically telling you to focus on your keys before the play. Don't worry about all of the motions, the shifts and things. If you just focus on what you're supposed to, you'll see a lot more of what's happening."

The fact Berry earned consensus All-America honors as a sophomore last fall suggests he already was doing a good job of focusing on his keys.

"To a certain extent," he conceded. "Being young, I kind of get sidetracked. You kind of get ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) on the field. When you've got 110,000 people in the stands yelling and cheering for you, you kind of wander off sometimes. I think I can get better at that, too."

Given all that Berry has accomplished in his first two years of college football, most observers figure he's a lock to turn pro following his junior season. The player, however, insists that he hasn't give the NFL a whole lot of thought to date.

"Not too much thought right now," he said. "I'm just trying to get ready for this season, finish this season out, hopefully get to the SEC Championship Game and win this year, then get to a BCS bowl."

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