UT position previews: Defensive Backs

Help wanted for Berry

If there's a shocking stat of the summer for Tennessee's defensive backs, it's this: All-American safety Eric Berry only has a couple interceptions.

Don't fret, though. The SEC's career leader in interception return yardage wasn't loafing during voluntary seven-on-seven workouts this offseason. He was busy helping.

"I've only had about two or three picks," Berry said. "Been doing a lot of coaching."

That could prove a lot more valuable come the fall.

With Berry and cornerback Dennis Rogan as the Vols' only returning starters in the secondary and a brand new scheme to learn on defense, there's a lot of tutoring to be done.

UT's Eric Berry stands on the sidelines during a spring practice at Neyland Stadium.

UT's Eric Berry stands on the sidelines during a spring practice at Neyland Stadium.

Coach: Willie Mack Garza

Lettermen Lost: (3) CB — DeAngelo Willingham, Antonio Gaines; FS — Demetrice Morley

Projected Starters: CB — Dennis Rogan (Jr., 5-10, 185), Brent Vinson (Jr., 6-0, 201). FS — Prentiss Waggner (R-Fr., 6-2, 177) or Stephaun Raines (So., 5-10, 179). SS — Eric Berry (Jr., 5-11, 203)

Watch For: Janzen Jackson. The five-star recruit from Louisiana likely will get the first shot at free safety, a position vacated when Demetrice Morley was dismissed in the spring.

Key Stat: On his seven interceptions last season, Berry averaged 39.3 return yards. And the junior’s two touchdowns tied for third on the team in 2008.

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Berry, a preseason All-SEC selection as well as a Heisman Trophy candidate, and Rogan, a former Fulton standout who has played in 25 career games, will need some help from a mix of newcomers and inexperienced players.

Entering the spring, Demetrice Morley figured to start at free safety again this fall, however some off-field issues led to his dismissal before the end of spring drills.

"Me and D-Mo are good friends," Berry said of Morley, who started 20 career games in the secondary. "It's going to be tough not being back there with him. At the same time he would want me to be playing hard or going hard for whoever's out there."

True freshman Janzen Jackson, a five-star recruit the Vols plucked from Louisiana after signing day, is a possible candidate to start at free safety despite being ranked the No. 2 overall cornerback in last year's class. Tennessee also could get help from true freshmen Darren Myles Jr. and Nyshier Oliver opposite Berry at safety.

While UT's newcomers will get the first chance at replacing Morley, the Vols have other options already on campus.

Prentiss Waggner, a 6-foot-2, 177-pound redshirt freshman tops the list of players who impressed Berry during offseason workouts.

"Prentiss Waggner is still here," Berry says. "A big-time guy. A natural ball hawk who can do it all. Cover. Hit. Anything. Janzen Jackson, he's a special player honestly. You're going to have to look out for him coming up soon because he's a true baller."

The Vols need to find another starter at cornerback, too.

Opposite Rogan, the Vols must find a replacement for DeAngelo Willingham, who started his final 19 games after transferring in from junior college. Junior Brent Vinson, one of UT's most athletic players, could be in the running, although he's been plagued at times by inconsistency on and off the field during his time at Tennessee.

Art Evans, who left spring practice listed as a possible starter, likely will factor into UT's plans in the secondary this fall. Evans, a sophomore, had a solid spring practice, while Marsalous Johnson returns for his senior season having started nine career games, including seven as a sophomore in 2007.

Still, there's no doubt that Berry, the reigning SEC defensive player of the year, remains Tennessee's star in the defensive backfield.

UT coach Lane Kiffin says his father, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, has been busy all summer finding new ways to use Berry.

"He (Monte Kiffin) made a statement, 'I don't know how he couldn't be the first pick of the (NFL) draft,' " Lane Kiffin said. "I think that's a pretty powerful statement about Eric.

"He continues to get so excited about using Eric in different ways. He's not had a safety over the years that he's been able to play at nickel."

Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.

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Comments » 26

ckelly33 writes:

B-E-R-R-Y

chargervol writes:

I am ready to get this season started. Let's kick it off and play some football. I like all sports, but college football is the greatest. The season just doesn't last long enough. Throw a playoff system in there to extend it a few weeks. I think it would be great. The best teams would still be the best teams. The teams that lose conference championships that make the playoffs would have something to play for. Then, if they stunk it up, there would be no excuses. GO VOLS!!!

ThaiVolFan writes:

Can't wait to see all the ways that EB will be used this season in Monte's scheme along with the heisman run. This will be a fun and exciting year for our Tennessee program. Hope we have a very very positive and productive Fall Camp as we build up a head of steam and confidence for the opening of the season! GBO

Slimjim_Vols writes:

Was in good ole Harriman, Knoxvegas, and Pigeon Forge to see the fam this weekend..... Stopped by Alumni Hall and bought a black and orange E.B. jersey. At first I was against the change but as long as it is Orange and E.B. is on the VOLS I wear it proudly.

On topic..... I think this is the clear consensous as the best position for the VOLS. Alot of experience and also alot of good freshmen coming in. I think our D will improve.... I know we had the 4th D last year, but I dont believe we will give up the 3rd and DOHHHHHHs this year. Pound the rock with our running game, and play tough physical D and this could very easily become a very special year for our beloved VOLS.

givehim6 writes:

Bitter, sweet about the thought of this being Barry's last season. Sweet to know the D back position will be Super for the 2009 year. But bitter knowing #14 my not be back there for 2010. But knowing CMK will keep bringing in some great D players as long as he is our D coordinator.

OakyVol09 writes:

I heard Rogan might be in trouble academically. Anybody have any info?

Vay_Owe_Ale_Ace writes:

I hope him "coaching" back there doesn't give him Jon Hefney disease.

lildhoss76ut#638162 writes:

Strongest part of the d no doubt.GO VOLS!

lomas98 writes:

Has there been any conversation about moving Vinson back to WR? He was recruited for that position and out of necessity was moved to DB. Seems the necessity now is more athletes at WR. If he can shape up off the field, he is one of our best athletes. These topics were one thing I was disappointed in during the SEC media days. Most questions were about Kiffin himself and what happened over his comments and not about the team itself.

murrayvol writes:

Even without Morley this group has a chance to be very good. I think they'll take that chance.

TommyJack writes:

in response to Vay_Owe_Ale_Ace:

I hope him "coaching" back there doesn't give him Jon Hefney disease.

Yeah, but this time there is a coach, coaching the coach.

hilltopper writes:

at least we can be excited about the defense and even though most of us are glad CF is hunting instead of coaching lets not forget Coach Chavis is what made our team the past 11 years. He is gone but we owe him a lot as we did Fulmer until about five years ago when he went on cruise control

AF_VOL writes:

I have heard that the offence seems more comfortable learning CLK's new system and is further along than they were last year...but has there been any word on how the defence is adapting to CMK's system?

RJ_Vol writes:

in response to Slimjim_Vols:

Was in good ole Harriman, Knoxvegas, and Pigeon Forge to see the fam this weekend..... Stopped by Alumni Hall and bought a black and orange E.B. jersey. At first I was against the change but as long as it is Orange and E.B. is on the VOLS I wear it proudly.

On topic..... I think this is the clear consensous as the best position for the VOLS. Alot of experience and also alot of good freshmen coming in. I think our D will improve.... I know we had the 4th D last year, but I dont believe we will give up the 3rd and DOHHHHHHs this year. Pound the rock with our running game, and play tough physical D and this could very easily become a very special year for our beloved VOLS.

To "borrow a word" from JCvet...Wearing black makes us Vandy "wannabees" - one of the worst Div-1 football programs in the past five decades. Let's not go there.

LiveFaith writes:

in response to Vay_Owe_Ale_Ace:

I hope him "coaching" back there doesn't give him Jon Hefney disease.

When I heard this, I instantly thought back to summer 2003, when Casey Clausen said the same thing. Not real reassuring.

I wish Demetrice would have stuck it out. We would have been scary back there then. I am amazed that he worked so hard to get back on the team, only to quit one year away from a near certain place in the NFL draft.

CuccessfulVol writes:

in response to AF_VOL:

I have heard that the offence seems more comfortable learning CLK's new system and is further along than they were last year...but has there been any word on how the defence is adapting to CMK's system?

Haven't heard anything either, outside of the individual performance reports. I would bet that our defense will have a few hiccups with young players and lack of depth at some positions

1974Vol writes:

Doubt Monte trys to run the whole "D" scheme he did at Tampa. Too little time to work on it with college kids. Look for him to bring them along slowly. But every week he will have a new wrinkle to throw at the opponents QB. Would be great if he could get in Tebows head. Knock TT off his swagger and see how tough the Gators really are. I can dream - its just July

DennisVols writes:

Rebuilding the Reputation of a team and a coach.
http://www.sportingnews.com/blog/Denn...

reidtownriverrat writes:

gotta pressure the qb. cant cover rec. all day

voltan writes:

Can someone please offer the Berry family some jobs? Nice folks with college should qualify for several positions. Come on alumni take care of your own. Eric might come back for senior year if they are OK financially. Bring them back to Knoxville and raise those other two football players around the UT program. Go Vols and Titans says Voltan.

the10sevol writes:

in response to voltan:

Can someone please offer the Berry family some jobs? Nice folks with college should qualify for several positions. Come on alumni take care of your own. Eric might come back for senior year if they are OK financially. Bring them back to Knoxville and raise those other two football players around the UT program. Go Vols and Titans says Voltan.

seriously? where are you from, birmingham?
note to commie slive: he was joking, honest...
GBO

blitzshoot writes:

in response to Jovi:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I believe Mr. Berry will.

Pdiddy10 writes:

WE ALL NEED YOUR HELP TO VOTE FOR ERIC BERRY FOR HEISMAN! DONT BE LAZY VOTE FOR HIM!!! TELL AS MUCH PEOPLE AS YOU CAN!

BERRY FOR HEISMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

dkdkdk writes:

dont get in passing situation such as 3rd in long theses guys are ball hawks if we shut down the run alot of teams are gonna be in trouble

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Pdiddy10:

WE ALL NEED YOUR HELP TO VOTE FOR ERIC BERRY FOR HEISMAN! DONT BE LAZY VOTE FOR HIM!!! TELL AS MUCH PEOPLE AS YOU CAN!

BERRY FOR HEISMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Heisman is awarded by votes of the members of the New York City Athletic Club and selected members of the sports media. It is not a "People's Choice" award. We can support Berry and talk him up all we wish, but we can't "vote" for him.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

We'll be just fine in the secondary..Having a for real DB coach will really help..Can't wait to see Jackson in action..Morley won't be missed at all!!!He played the run well but if you look at last years film;; in the red zone he got burnt more times than a bad steak; always 2 steps behind and had a lazy don't care attitude.

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