Morley, Berry expect bond to pay off for Vols in fall

Safeties working together to improve secondary





How do countless hours of playing video games help Tennessee's football team?

It's all about chemistry.

So says safety Demetrice Morley, the junior who is part of the most dominant area in UT's spring practice: the secondary.

Morley and his new running mate didn't wait until offseason workouts or even spring practice to get to know each other. Morley and sophomore safety Eric Berry were practically inseparable in early January.

Perhaps the duo just happened to hit it off and became immediate friends just because they were so compatible. Perhaps.

More likely, Morley and Berry were so eager to be friends that there's no way a relationship wouldn't thrive. Both surmised that a strong bond off the field would equate to a productive bond on the field.

"They know they can be great together," defensive backs coach Larry Slade said. "Their chemistry is outstanding."

That's resulted in big plays this spring. In UT's two full scrimmages, Morley has nine tackles, an interception, a sack and a blocked field goal, while Berry has five tackles, a pass break-up and a blocked field goal.

That's not the only area where UT's defensive backs are in mid-season form. The group has given itself a nickname: The Goon Squad. And the jokes don't stop there.

"I call him James," Morley said of Eric "James" Berry. "Don't tell him I told you."

All joking aside, the two seem to be a perfect match despite different backgrounds. Berry, by all accounts, is the star student, on and off the field. Morley, on the other hand, had his fair share of issues before returning to UT in January following a season he missed due to academic shortcomings.

Now, Slade says the two are always helping each other, whether that's in school, in the film room or in practice.

"They are very supportive of each other," Slade said. "Without a doubt, they keep each other straight. They're doing a good job with that."

Slade isn't one to heap undue compliments on players, which makes it even more impressive when he readily admits that his newly formed safety duo is exceeding his early expectations.

Still, Slade's not content as questions still remain. Can Morley continue to make the right decisions off the field? Can Berry avoid a sophomore slump after a freshman All-America season in 2007?

"Demetrice is determined to do the right things socially," Slade said. "… A lot of people saw what Eric did last year. He's a lot better than he was last year because of the experience."

Slade isn't worried that Berry will slip. Hard work, Slade says, will prevent that. Morley has noticed the same work ethic, and some innate skills that Berry is already well known for.

"He's going to be a leader," Morley said of Berry. "He knows he's going to be a leader. Everyday he steps up, he takes practice like a game situation.

"When you're down, he's going to talk to you and cheer you up. It feels like he's been here forever."

Having started 10 games and played two seasons at UT, Morley has played beside several different safeties. Jason Allen and Jonathan Hefney are the two most noteworthy. Morley thinks Berry might have an athletic advantage on the others.

"That kid," Morley said, "he's all-everything."

Athletically, so is Morley. Both are widely considered two of UT's better athletes, which gives coaches the versatility they dream of.

"We can both play free and strong (safety)," Berry said. "We're getting to know each other on and off the field, that helps."

For example, Berry has confided his goals for the season to only one other person.

"I just told Demetrice," Berry said.

Both admit the relationship was a bit of a gamble, albeit a safe one. Just because the two became friends doesn't mean they would play well together. In retrospect, it seems like an absolute necessity.

"I know that helped," Morley said. "We know what to expect from each other. We know each others' moves. Sometimes we even catch each other saying the same thing at the same time. It's funny."

So if you see Morley and Berry playing "Halo" or "Call of Duty", don't automatically think they're just lounging. They're actually hard at work.

"It pays off a lot," Berry said. "We're together a lot so we know what each other are doing at different times of the day and on the field.

"It helps."

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Comments » 64

VolPride_13 writes:

Your looking at the best safety tandem in the NATION!!!

hdhurst writes:

We could be looking at a great memory waiting to happen. If these two high profile guys live up to their "next" billing (with a marginal improvement with the front line), this could be what the offense needs to overcome their early chemistry issues and catch up to the defense. Keep working hard VOLS...August will be here before you know it.


MrBamSeydu writes:

Best pair of safeties in the country, hands down!

I'd like to see them both with 7 INT's each this season and around 70 tackles a piece. I realize that isn't many tackles, but I'd prefer most of those be done prior to getting to Berry and Morley!!

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:


I remember hearing all that nonsense last fall. I tell ya, we can be so stinking unrealistic sometimes.

Thinking about the secondary makes me feel giddy... like someone just ordered a fat steak at Littons and had to rush out for a meeting. "Hey man, I just ordered this steak but I have to run, do you want it?"

Yeah, I feel like that.

GerryOP writes:

It is well.

GreerVol22 writes:

These guys are good, no doubt. However, they will be as good as the D-line allows them to be.

Point being, the linebackers have cheated up so much last few years to help with run D, that it caused the safeties to cheat up to play a quasi linebacker roll. Check our opponents rushing avg if you need evidence.

Sure, Berry got a lot of tackles last year, but he had to run 10+ yards to get to them in order to stop an 8-9 yard run.

Alphafemale writes:

I'm so excited about this Defense!!!!!

richvol writes:

We have had some great DB's through the years: Bobby Majors, Tim Preist, Bill Young but the best tandem I ever saw on Shields-Watkins field together was Conrad Graham and David Allen.

Their last year they set an NCAA record that to this day stands...43 picks in a much shorter season. That's 4 per game...and incredible number to average.

They faced the quarterback,never turning their backs,watched his eyes and broke on the ball to pick it. They were so good it was more entertaining to watch the game when we were on defense.

These kids today have more raw physical talent. We just need to coach them properly. If we do so they could be the best to ever play at UT.

GerryOP writes:

Where in the world is tngeoff today?

BOASoldier writes:


nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:

Hey tngeoff,

The wife had the baby today. Good stuff. You can check out my website for pics. Fresh Lobster sounds good about right now. I splurged for some Kenny Rogers Roasters today. Make sure you go for a Deep Dish Pizza for me!

Vol13 writes:

Keep drinking the Kool-Aid boys! The defense will be worse than it was last year with virtually no DL depth and Jerod Mayo in the NFL. By the time opposing offensive players get to our Secondary - it won't matter who is back there because it will be 1st and 10 ____________.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

GerryOp, the kool-aid is flowing today. Any news on those 3 point stance fellows located 7.3 yds in front of Berry?

Thought not, apparently they're not important.

Offense to the left, offense to the right .......

Glad to see ol' tngeoff working hard. Somebody needs to. $3.00+ gas is going to get the Dems a lot of votes around here.

Congrats on the new addition, nicksjuzunk. New world facing a youngster today.

Pullingguard writes:

Could be that Vols have team this year that surpasses expectations.. The defense just might be the strong part of the team. Have idea that the offense will have to play game or so to jell and meet expectations of the coaching staff. Not sure who will play QB from this spring performance. Anyway, it's great to know the defensive backfield will or should be really good for 08 season.

BOASoldier writes:

heck yeah give the Dems a lot of votes then we can give 15% more of our check to those who don't do phooey through universal healthcare. Sounds great to me. Then when a player has a torn meniscus and needs surgery he'll be out for the year. As far as football goes... I think it's going to be a great year. The SEC will be strong in the top with a sharp drop off in talent for the likes of Vandy, Arkansas,and Kentucky. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer... the colapse of the working class that has to feed those who won't work for themselves ... whoops did I start talking politics again. My bad.

johnlg00 writes:

Yeah, Vol13, the kool-aid tastes mighty sweet right now! But why NOT look on the bright side? We're undefeated right now and there is a feeling of welcome change in the air--new coaches, new offensive system, key veterans returning, young prospects poised to become's a beautiful spring in Vol Land! No doubt we'll be disappointed soon enough, but we might as well start out with a positive attitude. We surely hope our players and coaches do! Why, thanks, I think I will have another cup of that good ol' Orange kool-aid!

GerryOP writes:

pd, still hoping to pick up some DLs during the free agent period, April 31. If no new additions, will dress out blocking dummies. Never fear, everything is wonderful!

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:

Thanks pdhuff,

A new baby is a welcome break from an otherwise busy schedule! Lots of optimism floating around here. I hope we aren't deceiving ourselves but are looking forward to a great year!

givehim6 writes:

What would be great would be if what ever fire has been lite in morley and berry would spread to the rest of the Def. including the D-line. To see a swarm defence like UT had in the mid and late 90's would be grate to see agin.

TommyJack writes:

Ashley: Ask PD Huff. He was in the stands 117 years ago. At least for home games. :)

DennisVols writes:

I want to see these two guys knock Tebow into next week when we play UF. The Gators got exposed last year by GA when Tebow gets banged up their offense is limited at best. Berry and Morley have the speed and hitting power to make Tebow think twice before taking the ball and running with it and the experience to go after the ball if he throws it.
Some improvement on the line could make this the kind of dominate defense we were used to seeing in the days of Big John, Andy Spiva, Leonard Little, Al Wilson, Keith DeLong and others.
Results like: Interceptions 8 vs. Alabama 1970
Yards 214 vs. South Carolina 1971 (5 int.)
Touchdowns 2 vs. Florida 1970; South Carolina 1971; Penn State 1971; Hawaii 1972
Interceptions 36 in 1970
Yards *782 in 1971
Average per Return *31.3 in 1971 (25 for 782)
Touchdowns *7 in 1971

GerryOP writes:

Ashley, let it go. Both sides have explained their positions ad infinitum and further conversation tends to drift off into insults and name calling that accomplishes nothing. We will all get a better idea of the status of the program come September 1. Until that time, win, lose, or draw, we are all loyal fans.

orangebloodgmc writes:

I hope Vinson is right up there with Berry and Morley, but Vinson might not even end up as a starter, contending with Rogan and Willingham. I really like what we've seen of Rogan and I have confidence he will contribute significantly to the team effort somewhere, whether as cornerback or not.

thesavageorange writes:

Something that went unspoken,about Saturdays scrimage,was the fact that the D-line was getting very good pressure.Dan Brooks actually said it was a glimmer of hope.Coming from "old school" Brooks ,that's actually high praise.Langley has pretty much solidified himself as the 4th DT.They say he is the one guy(outside of the top 3)that the coaches never have to bark at about giving effort.

On the offensive side there are some factors in poor performance.2 of the 3 int's Sat were caused by receiver slips.Good news is ,when Crompton was asked about it he said "nope it was my fault".=Leadership

Doug Mathews had some great points during a Q & A w/ Rob Lewis this week.On Crompton:He said he is lining up w/ different guys all the time b/c Clawson has to evaluate different players to see who is actually capable of playing.He also said CPF does spring a little different than most coaches.He doesn't restrict the defense.Most coaches will have the D line up in a base defense no matter what the formation of the O.Once Clawson determines his 2 deep the O will start to take form.9 days of running the offense,not knowing what a certain receiver will do, and adding in blitzes and disguised coverages =a tough go.

Quote from Mathews:I mean go back and look at how many times we came out of spring with some running back have huge numbers in spring practice. I don't want to mention any names because I don't mean to embarrass anyone, but we've had a handful of walk-ons rush for 100-something yards in a scrimmage or the Orange and White game or whatever, and we all know that they don't mean anything.

johnlg00 writes:

Thanks for the info, thesavageorange. That does put the offense's struggles in a different light. I have surely been fooled before, but I am really optimistic about the team's chances next year. Not saying we will contend for the NC next season, but not many thought we would get one in '98, either. With a little good luck, who knows?

invisiblekid writes:

I second that post at 1:03 GerryOP.

thesavageorange writes:

sjt18 ,Phew thanks!Spring is about player's not plays.Example:Crompton lines up at QB,Vereen at RB,Austin at FB,Pope at TE, and Moore and Hancock at WR.That's almost 0 experience in a 9 practice old system.Then throw the goon squad at them.

The players they know can play don't get near the reps as players fighting for pt.For instance, if there weren't injuries at RB, Foster may not have touched a football Saturday.

invisiblekid writes:

Savage O, was there any word from Caldwell about the ends? I haven't heard anything on Ben Martin lately. This kid was All-Everything and the #2 DE prospect in the nation. I generally don't pay much attention to rankings and such but I don't think a player gets that kind of recognition without a certain level of talent.

Overall, I think DE could be another example of addition by subtraction like sjt18 has brought up with the changes at LB. Ayers had two sacks and I felt like he should have been starting over Reynolds or Mitchell last year. It wasn't as though either of those guys were beacons of consistency either.

orangebloodgmc writes:

Good info, guys. And johnlg00, that's a good point that few (if anybody) were predicting an nc in '98.

In fact, the other day I found a clipping that I had saved from the spring immediately preceding the nc of '98 and it was fun to read all the doubt being voiced in the wake of us losing Peyton and company, now knowing what would happen that fall. Would the KNS let me scan this clipping and post a link to it some how? I guess its proprietary to the paper, but do they even still have a copy like I do?

invisiblekid writes:

BTW, I said it the other day for Matthews regarding walk-ons getting 100 yards in scrimmages and it not meaning anything, David Yancey was who came to my mind. Even nominated him for the O&W Game Hall of Fame.

invisiblekid writes:

Last article I have seen to mention Martin, nothing mentioned about him since the last scrimmage though.

orangebloodgmc writes:

Look over at the other side of this site page for the blog/artcle by Strange.

While I didn't see specific mention of Martin, it did say this:

"Our four-man rush, to be honest, it's the best it's been in a while."

That might imply that returnees are improved, or newcomers are doing something positive.

99gator writes:

fellas, fellas, fellas.....

i don't know how good tenn will be. you all know them better than i do.

however, good offense or defense starts up front. you have to run the ball and stop the run.

your secondary can be every bit as good as you say, and you still may not have a dominant defense. you might only have an average defense, i don't know.

so, before y'all dub the 2008 tenn defense the "orange crush" or something, keep that in mind.

TommyJack writes:

Actually, 99, some of us are still worried about the DL. If they're not improved, the DB's will be burdened again. OTOH, if the DL is significantly improved, look out.
All starts in the line. What a concept, huh?

thesavageorange writes:

invisiblekid,I remember watching the spring game last yr and saying where did they hide this Olasimbo kid.Word on Martin is, he is really working hard on technique ,and it may be slowing him down a bit.Caldwell says he's a workhorse and should get bigger over the summer.He is 240lbs, but probably needs to get to 250 or so.(all muscle)

orangebloodgmc ,Not only were we not suppose to win the NC, we weren't even suppose to win the conferernce.

99gator writes:


i know. and i know hope springs eternal.

but, i have read some things that are problematic that are natural, because players are human and it could spell some trouble.

for instance, berry said something to the effect that they (the secondary) were not operating on all cylinders last year. something like only 80 or 90 percent. all due to youth, injuries, etc. only natural. and that now they know what they are doing.

well, think about the offense. a new qb, a new system. there will be some problems. it happens with every new coach and every new system. it's natural.

i am sure you will read next spring quotes from crompton about the offense now being on the same page. and how it's night and day from 2008, etc. it happens everywhere.

hopefully, for tenn, the problems can be overcome, or the defense is so strong that the offense can be allowed to come along slowly.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

TJ, all is well.

We will unleash the dogs of war on the hapless cornered Bruin.

Hope springs eternal, will reality smile?

The bulbs will tell this tale. Nothing else will matter for this is not hand grenades or horseshoes where close actually counts.

invisiblekid writes:

sjt18, Fulmer actually mentioned the 3-4 the other day:

One other thing, just offering this to defend mine and others "poo-pooing" about the defensive line. They did give up over 400 yards rushing to LSU and Wisconsin in their last two games of the year. SC was playing catch-up and passing the ball all over the place yet nearly eclipsed the 200 yard mark. They caught AR without a key to their Wild Hog offense in Jones as well. And honestly, the defense should look good against the run when playing Vandy and KY.

99gator writes:


i am just offering warnings and not making any definitive statements either. a lot of improvement can occur in one year. i am hoping for a lot of improvement in florida's defense too.

if morley or berry is that good...... one can drop into the box and have eight men up with only one safety deep. a bit dangerous, but if you have a safety that can go sideline to sideline, it is feasible.

more than one way to skin a cat.

thesavageorange writes:

sjt18 ,I think Gerald Williams might end up having a say at LB although they might move him to end.That may also depend on where they plan to play Warren, if he plays at all.There have been some whispers questioning his desire to play again.

99gator writes:


i have never commented on warren (te from fsu). personally, i thought he was the most talented tight end i had seen in a while and the best offesive player fsu had. i think the kid can be as good as he wants to be. it would be sad if he never played again due to a family situation, which is why he transferred in the first place.

invisiblekid writes:

I know sjt18, no ill-will intended on my end either. My philosophy on the defensive line is essentially it has to get better because it can't get much worse by the high standards wehave come to expect. There were flashes last year but I think some of the new talent(Langley, Martin, Walker) we see this year will help.

invisiblekid writes:

Haven't heard anything about Warren, that would be a sad situation if he didn't play.

thesavageorange writes:

As far as I know all GW has to do is graduate JC.All I can think of on Warren is that this whole process has just worn on him.Maybe when he's cleared that burden will ease.

TommyJack writes:

Why can't we just all achieve wa?

BOASoldier writes:


BOASoldier writes:

huh? wa? sorry just got a little lost there. I'm excited about this season ... then again I was excited about last season and didn't think Cal had a chance... kinda figured Fla. would beat us and thought we'd pull it off against Al. I also thought the Ga game would be close and all the rest would be walk throughs ... that's what I get for thinking... oh well you win some you lose some, unless you're CPF then you better win em all by God or you're outta here. ;) (sarcasm noted)

thesavageorange writes:

TommyJack ,Really!That way we could just blind fold Crompton so he wouldn't telegraph his throws!

Just kidding JC.

TommyJack writes:


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