Coaches don't expect a lot when they take over a program coming off a 5-7 season.
There's a reason why the last coaches weren't allowed to return. Usually those reasons are littered all over the depth chart.
Such is not the case in Tennessee's defensive backfield, where the Vols return a Jim Thorpe Award finalist, four bona fide starters, a roster chock full of young, promising players and a handful of highly touted incoming prospects.
UT's secondary was so good last season that coach Larry Slade was a finalist for FootballScoop's National Defensive Backs Coach of the Year. Yet Slade wasn't asked to return.
Among UT's nine assistant coaches hired by Lane Kiffin, secondary coach Willie Mack Garza is the lucky one. And he knows it.
"I inherited some hellacious defensive backs," Garza said with a smile following Saturday's practice. "I'm thanking the gods."
Not that Garza couldn't use some more divine intervention. He still needs Brent Vinson to return healthy from a pending shoulder surgery and would like to see both Vinson and safety Demetrice Morley consistently show the discipline that has eluded them at times.
Morley is key. With 20 starts, he gives UT experience along with superb athleticism and versatility. When teamed with All-American Eric Berry, the Vols have a pair of safeties who could rival any in the nation.
"He's spectacular," Garza said of Morley. "At free safety, golly, he can run. I watched him against Florida last year on film. He tracked down them jackrabbits that they have back there.
"(He's) got great football I.Q. He loves playing the game of football. He's got that nasty mentality which you want as a safety. And he's got the ability to play man."
Garza also likes Morley's ability to roam like a center fielder on one play and play like a linebacker the next.
Garza, however, probably wasn't too crazy about Morley showing up late for a meeting and subsequently being suspended from UT's first practice this month.
Morley's approach to football, class and life is a work in progress.
"It's improving," Garza said. "He's made progress but he's not where he needs to be in regards to those issues. He's got to constantly, everyday stay focused on the task at hand for that day."
Garza said UT's coaches meet with Morley every morning to plan out his tasks for the day.
"Eventually, he'll do those things," Garza said. "Then eventually he'll do them on his own. He's working towards that. He's maturing."
Secondary Synopsis: Garza was extremely complimentary of several of his younger defensive backs.
"Evans is a big corner that plays physical," Garza said of sophomore Art Evans. "He can run and make plays like you saw him do today."
Garza also spoke glowingly of redshirt freshman Rod Wilks, who signed with UT as a receiver, was soon moved to linebacker and is playing safety.
"I think he's definitely bought into what we want him to do," Garza said. "Now it's just a matter of him getting comfortable and executing it full speed without having to think."
Sophomore C.J. Fleming also seems to be catching on to UT's new defensive system.
"He's probably had the best, last two or three practices," Garza said.
'O' Says: Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron tried to temper some of the enthusiasm surrounding junior defensive end Chris Walker, who coach Lane Kiffin has called "unblockable" on several occasions.
"He's doing OK," Orgeron said. "But there's a lot of things he's got to get better at. There are times he flashes and shows some things. But I expect a lot of improvement out of him.
"Does he have the talent to be a pretty good player? Yes."
Orgeron said he's been impressed with junior defensive end Ben Martin.
"Showing some good quickness, showing some good speed, has long leverage," Orgeron said. "I think he's going to be a tremendous player.
"But six practices? We've got a long way to go. But I do believe the end result is going to be very favorable."
Orgeron said he's also pleased with backup defensive ends Willie Bohannon, Steven Fowlkes and Gerald Williams, who moved from linebacker last week.
"I think we've got some good depth there," Orgeron said. "I really do."
Orgeron also seemed encouraged by the play of freshman Montori Hughes and senior Wes Brown, who moved to defensive tackle from defensive end last week.
"We're going to be at least two deep," Orgeron said of his defensive line.