There are times when Tennessee's defensive backs struggle to keep up with assistant coach Willie Mack Garza.
Yet it's not the defensive scheme the Vols aren't grasping; it's the substitution patterns Garza demands. Much like a student cramming for exams, Garza wants to see every last snap possible to determine who will start UT's season opener on Sept. 5 against Western Kentucky.
"We're still evaluating those guys," Garza said following Tuesday's practice.
Those guys are vying for the free safety spot alongside All-American Eric Berry.
Redshirt freshman Prentiss Waggner started preseason camp getting the most first-team snaps. Former cornerback standout Dennis Rogan, a junior, has made a push and often runs with the first team.
Freshmen Janzen Jackson and Darren Myles have also received significant practice snaps, as had senior walk-on Derrick Furlow, who was slowed early in camp by a sore shoulder.
"We're still taking a look at them and trying to decide which ones are going to be the starter and what guys are going to come in nickel," Garza said, referring to the Vols' extra defensive backs package. "We're still in that process of evaluating."
Time is running short with game preparation starting Monday.
"We are starting to make some decisions this week," Garza said. "We're starting to move forward to finalize some stuff but we're not quite there yet."
As for the cornerback position, it has recently been bolstered by an influx of healthy players. Junior Brent Vinson is returning gradually from a hamstring injury. Sophomore Art Evans has returned from a knee injury suffered early in preseason camp and immediately received first team snaps.
"He's looking good," Garza said of Evans. "He's not 100 percent. You can tell he's not full speed yet but he's really working hard, making plays at 75 percent, 80 percent, whatever it is.
"I think he's a helluva football player. He works hard, good kid, stays out of trouble. He's trustworthy, dependable. He's the type of guy that you want on your football team as a cornerback."
UT's secondary could have a significant Knoxville feel if Rogan and Anthony Anderson nail down starting jobs. Anderson continues to get first team snaps at cornerback.
"I've been happy with Anthony Anderson," Garza said. "He works extremely hard during practice and after practice. No off the field problems. You can trust him.
"He's learning the cornerback position still because he played some safety in the spring mostly. We moved him to cornerback halfway through the spring so he's a work in progress. But he's made plays out here. I think he has some talent and ability."
Safety Sullins: If something were to happen to center Cody Sullins, his twin brother, Cory, had better be prepared.
The Vols might turn to Cory if Cody were to go down this season. Cody is the starting center now that Josh McNeil will be out for at least a month after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Wedneaday. Cory is thought to be the primary backup.
"I think I'm pretty well prepared," Cory said.
Cory has played some center the last four years in practice but was moved exclusively to guard in spring practice. With McNeil's ailment, Cory started taking - and giving - snaps at center.
"I'm starting to feel more comfortable there and making the right calls," Cory said. "It's been getting a little bit easier for me."
Cory said his knowledge of the game is one of his strengths. He joked that his stature could also provide some leverage.
"I guess being shorter I have a lower center of gravity," the 6-foot-1, 270 pounder said. "Maybe that makes it a little easier when big 300 pounders are right up next to your face."
What's With Warren?: Head coach Lane Kiffin seemed frustrated again with receiver Brandon Warren's inability to stay on the practice field. Warren left early on Wednesday.
"Always something," Kiffin said following practice. "Every day there's usually something. I don't know what it was today. He makes a couple of significant plays then he's over on the training table."
Schedule: The Vols will return to the practice field today, which is expected to be a physical workout.
UT will hold a light practice on Saturday that will focus on special teams and mental work.