Garza inherits deep secondary

Safeties Morley, Berry top tandem

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.

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Comments » 101

TommyJack writes:

Good write-up.

SEAL_9821 writes:

Good article KNS.

CoastGuardDoc4UT writes:

Too bad Coach Chaney did inherit the same amount of talent or depth on the O-side of the ball....

thevoice writes:

Hot diggity dog. I'm feeling the orange. Can't wait 'till Fall.

Pops writes:

In the 90s UT was Wide Receiver U, now it appears that we are becoming DB U. Personally, I would prefer to be Defensive Tackle U. It doesnt matter how good your secondary is if you cant stop the run. All things considered our defense should be quite formidable next season.

VAvolfanRON writes:

my boy CJ.....(from Richmond)...im partial to him...im counting on him......

Vol_FAN_atic writes:

No one ever questioned defense.

Offense, offense, offense!!! Fix that, we're good!

murrayvol writes:

Morley will be not only a great safety but a stellar student athlete and model citizen in 09'. He will then go on to a successful NFL career. But don't book it....it's a work in progress.

Vol_FAN_atic writes:

in response to murrayvol:

Morley will be not only a great safety but a stellar student athlete and model citizen in 09'. He will then go on to a successful NFL career. But don't book it....it's a work in progress.

LOL!

chaos001 writes:

lest we not forget the additions of jackson, teague and others in the secondary. fast and furious!

prideofthesouthland writes:

Best article of the spring!

EZVOL writes:

From what some of the other articles have been saying, Prentiss Waggner is going to be a stud at safety. Coaches need to get these boys coached-up and feed them gun powder. Make them mean! Kick some b-tt.

gohawks1 writes:

If Morley can keep his head in the game, he'll be a super contributor. Plenty of depth behind him if he doesn't. I'm pulling for him...

99gator writes:

after reading this comment......

"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.

i felt compelled to look it up, because i didn't remember dee morley doing anything noteworthy in the florida game.

dee morley had three tackles against florida. 2 solo, 1 assisted.

i'll say the same thing i said before last season.

i have a lot of respect for eric berry. but, this goon squad stuff is laughable.

when somebody else in the secondary makes a play, spread the word.

belayvol writes:

Sounds like a good mix of speed and aggression. This D will hurt some people.

vol4good#206163 writes:

in response to 99gator:

after reading this comment......

"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.

i felt compelled to look it up, because i didn't remember dee morley doing anything noteworthy in the florida game.

dee morley had three tackles against florida. 2 solo, 1 assisted.

i'll say the same thing i said before last season.

i have a lot of respect for eric berry. but, this goon squad stuff is laughable.

when somebody else in the secondary makes a play, spread the word.

Please go and find the rock you crawled out from under. There has to be a Star trek convention your missing! In case you missed it, this is a TENNESSEE web site. So piss off heh!

99gator writes:

in response to 1stAndGoal:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

i'll refresh yours courtesy of utsports.com

F 3rd-13 FL26 15-T. Tebow pass complete to 1-P. Harvin for 34 yards to the UT40, 1ST
DOWN UF (7-D. Morley;41-Dennis Rogan), PENALTY UT face mask 15 yards
to the UT25, 1ST DOWN UF.

they caught the jack rabbit after 34 yards and had to tackle him by his face mask to add another 15.

i remembered the play well.

Kiffinator writes:

in response to volsgatorbait:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Many of us have offered you better than writting it down and tried to get you to stand behind that claim and wager it. All we get in return is silence to STFU with that spread unless you want to put your money where ur mouth is

99gator writes:

look, i didn't come to pick a fight.

but, so far, your six days into spring ball and a d-lineman is being called unblockable, crompton is the man, and the goon squad has returned.

now, i figured some of you all would want so see it before you believed it.

because, i, for one, haven't seen jack squat from anyone on that squad except for a select few.

i would suggest some of you take a "show me" approach to some of the personnel that are being described.

positive things are good to hear (better than hearing negative things), but you all were sold a bunch of things last season too, by the some of the same people that praise is being heaped on again.

live long and prosper

TENECSTUD writes:

WHAT ABOUT B. BROWN AND D. OKUE, HOW LONG BEFORE THEY GET TO THE PRACTICE FIELD? WHATS THEY'RE STATUS?

belayvol writes:

My favorite Klingon saying, "Eat fark and die Romulan dog!"

utvol12345 writes:

in response to 99gator:

look, i didn't come to pick a fight.

but, so far, your six days into spring ball and a d-lineman is being called unblockable, crompton is the man, and the goon squad has returned.

now, i figured some of you all would want so see it before you believed it.

because, i, for one, haven't seen jack squat from anyone on that squad except for a select few.

i would suggest some of you take a "show me" approach to some of the personnel that are being described.

positive things are good to hear (better than hearing negative things), but you all were sold a bunch of things last season too, by the some of the same people that praise is being heaped on again.

live long and prosper

It's pretty hard to produce a top 5 defense with only one good player like you say. Well if Tennessee did that with only one player, then Eric Berry is the best player ever to play the game.

VOLKING writes:

in response to 99gator:

look, i didn't come to pick a fight.

but, so far, your six days into spring ball and a d-lineman is being called unblockable, crompton is the man, and the goon squad has returned.

now, i figured some of you all would want so see it before you believed it.

because, i, for one, haven't seen jack squat from anyone on that squad except for a select few.

i would suggest some of you take a "show me" approach to some of the personnel that are being described.

positive things are good to hear (better than hearing negative things), but you all were sold a bunch of things last season too, by the some of the same people that praise is being heaped on again.

live long and prosper

You didn't come here to pick a fight!!?? Then why do you come to a Tennessee Vols website at all? This is a sight where fans can can exchange ideas about their team and have hope for the coming season. You are a like an atheist billboard. Your only goal is to offer hopelessness. Your views are as biased as ours...so go frollick with your Gator buddies. If not, expect Vol fans to give you a fight each and every time you come on here!

belayvol writes:

in response to VOLKING:

You didn't come here to pick a fight!!?? Then why do you come to a Tennessee Vols website at all? This is a sight where fans can can exchange ideas about their team and have hope for the coming season. You are a like an atheist billboard. Your only goal is to offer hopelessness. Your views are as biased as ours...so go frollick with your Gator buddies. If not, expect Vol fans to give you a fight each and every time you come on here!

In real life he is a pharmaceutical rep. He spends 8 hours a day doling out downers. It is natural for him to come here and push his depression drugs. Have some Xanax, you are still no good, but this will make you feel better.

BillsBrother writes:

in response to utvol12345:

It's pretty hard to produce a top 5 defense with only one good player like you say. Well if Tennessee did that with only one player, then Eric Berry is the best player ever to play the game.

Our defense produced top five stats with smoke and mirrors last year.

When our team needed a big stop in a big game, they often failed!

I am looking for VAST improvement this season from offense, special teams AND defense.

notoriousBIGorange writes:

in response to utvol12345:

It's pretty hard to produce a top 5 defense with only one good player like you say. Well if Tennessee did that with only one player, then Eric Berry is the best player ever to play the game.

Yes, Eric Berry is the BEST defensive back ever to play at Tennessee.

BillsBrother writes:

in response to VOLKING:

You didn't come here to pick a fight!!?? Then why do you come to a Tennessee Vols website at all? This is a sight where fans can can exchange ideas about their team and have hope for the coming season. You are a like an atheist billboard. Your only goal is to offer hopelessness. Your views are as biased as ours...so go frollick with your Gator buddies. If not, expect Vol fans to give you a fight each and every time you come on here!

99gator has consistently been a positive contributor to GVX.

There are MANY seasoned posters on this site that will not joust with 99, because his posts make sense.

therewillbeorange writes:

Imagine that you are at a bar with all your buddies, talking about the vols, minding your own business, and getting amped up for the season. Then out of nowhere, a UF fan comes along and sits at your table uninvited. He annoyingly starts talking about his team even though none of you care. When he finally leaves you laugh at the guy and move on.

Those are the guys on here. Just laugh and move on. They have no friends and go to bars alone.

wantingthevols2win writes:

Of those "highly touted player coming in" that wasn't even mentioned, look for Janzen Jackson to really make a push for playing time.
Jackson, 6'0 174 is a five-star defensive back from Lake Charles, LA. A little underwieght, Jackson will put on pounds once on UT campus. He has great close out speed, an uncanny nose for the ball, and hits like a safety!
He had been commited to LSU, until Kiffin and crew made a hard push to get Jackson to even consider UT. His father is a college football coach, so he should be well ahead of the learning curve. Not to meantion he carries a 3.1 GPA!
I really like his skill set and chances to help the defensive back field as a freshman. Check out his highlights and see what you think.
http://www.takkle.com/people/7406032/...

Voluvr writes:

If this team this year played our team last year...this year would be a 21 pt. favorite. I think with conditioning and intensity would make it a beat down.

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:

in response to 99gator:

look, i didn't come to pick a fight.

but, so far, your six days into spring ball and a d-lineman is being called unblockable, crompton is the man, and the goon squad has returned.

now, i figured some of you all would want so see it before you believed it.

because, i, for one, haven't seen jack squat from anyone on that squad except for a select few.

i would suggest some of you take a "show me" approach to some of the personnel that are being described.

positive things are good to hear (better than hearing negative things), but you all were sold a bunch of things last season too, by the some of the same people that praise is being heaped on again.

live long and prosper

You're right on about the show me first approach 99.

We were all sold a bill of goods last year and were dreaming of being so good that we just did a relaxed offense the first two games till we "really showed it" against Florida! I would cringe in disgust to see my posts from last year.

Yes, good news from practice. I want good news Saturdays this fall. Period.

belayvol writes:

After reading back over my post, i owe 99 an apology. He snuck in during a period of several usual suspects and i did not look close enough to see who i was commenting on. 99 is a good guy from what i have seen and a true fan. Now if i can get him to pull for the right team....

MidTennVol writes:

Guys, any of you have any contact with the coaching staff, please pass along the name of Brian Randolph, a phenomenal sophomore RB/safety out of Kell High School in Marietta, GA. My nephew has been playing with Brian for several years.

I have seen this kid run for 7 touchdowns in a game, 6 touchdowns in a game, 5 touchdowns in a game -- and he could have kept going in each game but his coach pulled him. He is an unreal runner...just a man among boys out there.

AND he is a Georgia All-State safety/DB. Coach O or whoever needs to get down to the Atlanta area and see this kid ASAP and I think he already has letters from other schools...

Google "Brian Randolph Kell Marietta" and you'll see what I mean...

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to MidTennVol:

Guys, any of you have any contact with the coaching staff, please pass along the name of Brian Randolph, a phenomenal sophomore RB/safety out of Kell High School in Marietta, GA. My nephew has been playing with Brian for several years.

I have seen this kid run for 7 touchdowns in a game, 6 touchdowns in a game, 5 touchdowns in a game -- and he could have kept going in each game but his coach pulled him. He is an unreal runner...just a man among boys out there.

AND he is a Georgia All-State safety/DB. Coach O or whoever needs to get down to the Atlanta area and see this kid ASAP and I think he already has letters from other schools...

Google "Brian Randolph Kell Marietta" and you'll see what I mean...

I would hope that if he is that good,our coaches have heard about him.Sure hope so.The guy sounds like a sure winner.

DarthVol writes:

in response to 99gator:

look, i didn't come to pick a fight.

but, so far, your six days into spring ball and a d-lineman is being called unblockable, crompton is the man, and the goon squad has returned.

now, i figured some of you all would want so see it before you believed it.

because, i, for one, haven't seen jack squat from anyone on that squad except for a select few.

i would suggest some of you take a "show me" approach to some of the personnel that are being described.

positive things are good to hear (better than hearing negative things), but you all were sold a bunch of things last season too, by the some of the same people that praise is being heaped on again.

live long and prosper

Next thing you know, you'll be telling us "there is no Santa Clause".

Are you for real?

pdhuff#552644 writes:

in response to TCHDWN10C:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Do we have a sloooow middle LB to play cover on 3rd and 16?

Secondary should be spectacular.

Look at Fla's first 2 games afore us.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

Our best bet for 2009 is the 'us against the world' mindset, and Kiffin knows it.

You'll often see me downplaying the importance of 'skill players' vs the impportance of the BIG DOGS on the offensive and defensive lines. HOWEVER, that presumes you hava at least a serviceable starting QB, one who can make the reads and hit open receivers, make few mistakes, and sometimes scramble. Players of the that type: Chris Leak of UF, Matt Flynn of LSU, and Jay Parker of Bama. In UT's case, we don't have dominant O and D lines, PLUS we have weak QB's.

The other thing I"m not hearing much about is Special Teams. We all remember how bad they where last season. In the SEC you MUST HAVE quality Special Teams to compete. I see us relying heavily on the the ST's and the defense this season.

I'm not saying the team can't come around. Get a few breaks, and we move on down the road pretty well. Possiblyi we develop on offsnse that can run the ball effectively.

I'm optimistic about the team's attitude. Now, can they keep up that entusiasm all fall?? you know how it goes, you can get used to anything. Will the Vols simply 'get used' to the coaches being amped up and ignore them?? I think that depends on the team leaders. This isn't a team that can win by 'being professioanl', it has to 'be emotional'.

Coach K knows all this, for sure. For a young guy, he has a LOT of experience, and of course his staff does as well. They KNOW to get more recruits, thay HAVE to play with passion, and even when losing, put on a good show.

Sorry for the long writeup, it would be even longer if I spelled out more what I was thinking! Have a great day, y'all.

dvhill100 writes:

The slam on 99 is unjustified. While the other interlopers can and do simply antagonize or instigate, 99 is always reasonable and usually has all his ducks in a row. You notice he pointed out the picture was the result of UF converting a 3rd and long. What a surprise. Like that never happened last year.

If another fan comes on here and wants to talk football without name calling, etc., do it in an adult manner. I have had some very good conversations with these other fans, and having an outside viewpoint never hurts. That orange koolaid can be deceiving sometimes (like last year).

Okay, I am now off my soapbox.

As Worf said in response to let's hear some chatter for a baseball game, "Death to the opposition!"

andefromtn#212139 writes:

They didn't mention Dennis Rogan in article, and I am sitting here wondering why. (yes, I am scratching my head) He played well last fall and it's my hope he continues to improve back there.

richvol writes:

in response to 99gator:

look, i didn't come to pick a fight.

but, so far, your six days into spring ball and a d-lineman is being called unblockable, crompton is the man, and the goon squad has returned.

now, i figured some of you all would want so see it before you believed it.

because, i, for one, haven't seen jack squat from anyone on that squad except for a select few.

i would suggest some of you take a "show me" approach to some of the personnel that are being described.

positive things are good to hear (better than hearing negative things), but you all were sold a bunch of things last season too, by the some of the same people that praise is being heaped on again.

live long and prosper

The show me approach is always the prudent one. As always though some of us tend to get a little over optimistic especially since we have been starved for quality football at Tennessee for years. It has been since the 2001 team that won in the swamp that Tennessee has performed at a high level...and by damn if they didn't turn around and lose to an inferior LSU team to spoil a Rose Bowl appearance.

I haven't trusted UT's coaches or the players since that letdown...it was inexcusible.

There is a glimmer of hope brewing on The Hill now with a young enthusiastic staff combined with some genuine talent. Tennessee has always had great athletes. We shall see.

richvol writes:

in response to BillsBrother:

Our defense produced top five stats with smoke and mirrors last year.

When our team needed a big stop in a big game, they often failed!

I am looking for VAST improvement this season from offense, special teams AND defense.

They didn't often fail...they failed EVERY time.

Sad but accurate post.

ALLVOL12 writes:

What's the news with Chris Donald, I haven't heard anything about him and thought he would be a stud by now.

nicksjuzunk#646117 writes:

in response to dvhill100:

The slam on 99 is unjustified. While the other interlopers can and do simply antagonize or instigate, 99 is always reasonable and usually has all his ducks in a row. You notice he pointed out the picture was the result of UF converting a 3rd and long. What a surprise. Like that never happened last year.

If another fan comes on here and wants to talk football without name calling, etc., do it in an adult manner. I have had some very good conversations with these other fans, and having an outside viewpoint never hurts. That orange koolaid can be deceiving sometimes (like last year).

Okay, I am now off my soapbox.

As Worf said in response to let's hear some chatter for a baseball game, "Death to the opposition!"

Agreed on all.

I also have an oral kool-aid fixation. I prefer it in syrup form, but as I've said before, that junk turned all bitter last year. I was toking it hard at the time. After all, Foster had gained a lot of quickness, Crompton was the dual threat running back that could flatten a hard hitting safety, and Clausen was a verified genius from an Ivy League school.

With that said, I am cautiously hopeful about this season

GoVol writes:

Morely had a horrible season last year. He has the ability, but his biggest problem is between his ears!

orangeinbama writes:

Why is it so hard for some of you to ignore the lopers? Why do you feel the urge to respond? What can you actually say?
They have two NC's and we have a 5-7 team with new coaches across the board. No one loves the Orange or wants to win more than I do. I live in the closest thing to he!! on earth if you can imagine (see username). I WANT to beat UF and for sake of all that is holy beat Mullet nation, mainly so these delusional idiots will STFU. Seems lots of Vol fans think we have transformed all our players into Reggie Whites, Justin Harriels, Peyton Mannings, Fred Wearys and magically taken & transformed what remained from a 5-7 team and in 4 months to a national contender team ? I love the rekindled fire in Vol country and unbridled enthusiasm, the feelings or returning to a contender with a swagger. Will we be better? Yes. Nowhere to go but up. Lots of talented teams in the SEC. We have to catch them with talent first. You can talk "coach em up" all you want. But when the rubber meets the road and the all the emotion becomes secondary, talent will win. One recruiting class wont do it. A 6-6, or 7-5 record this season is improvement IMO. 8-4 may be achieveable. But 10-2? 11-1? Not a chance.

99gator writes:

in response to CLEMSONVOL716:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

gatorzz and dc don't believe i am a real gator fan.

most of the time, you all like the posts i write.

in this case, i went negative.

i went negative because some of the same players being praised are the same players who were hyped up last year.

the "goon squad" is a great example. in the very first game last season, the "goon squad" was picked apart by a horrible qb in the 2nd half including a bang-bang-bang 2 minute drill.

all dee morley has ever gotten is huge praise, from his 5 star high school status throught the current day. now, i am sorry if you don't agree, but i don't think he's done much that is particularly noteworthy.

i am backing up the comment from eddie o in this article......which is basically......slow down, we just started spring ball for crying out loud.

volunteer11 writes:

we will have a really good starting D line

volaholic45 writes:

Some lopers come on here throwing bombs, and then act all wounded when people react unkindly. I guess some here have noticed that 99 is a cut above the others, but still they are all here to make sure we don't think too much of our team and to make sure we bow the knee to Pope Urban and the mighty lizards. Some come with a snarl and some in the guise of a friendly opponent just offering a different point of view, but they all get happy in direct proportion to our misery. Give no quarter, please.

99gator writes:

although, morley has done stuff like this particularly well in his tennessee career......

"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."

99gator writes:

in response to volaholic45:

Some lopers come on here throwing bombs, and then act all wounded when people react unkindly. I guess some here have noticed that 99 is a cut above the others, but still they are all here to make sure we don't think too much of our team and to make sure we bow the knee to Pope Urban and the mighty lizards. Some come with a snarl and some in the guise of a friendly opponent just offering a different point of view, but they all get happy in direct proportion to our misery. Give no quarter, please.

i am not a message board version of tokyo rose.

if, in theory, i am actually able to make people feel good or bad about their team......it would not matter. because, either way, how a fan may feel does not change what anyone is doing on the field.

i had a feeling tennessee would go 9-3 or 8-4 last season and said so. that would have been a whole lot better than what you got.

if i say that tennessee has no shot to beat florida this season. it might make a tennessee fan feel bad. but if tennessee does win.....do you think i will be able to make fans feel bad about their team with something i post here later.

it's the play on the field that makes you feel good or bad, not anything i may write.

if you read any basketball articles that i commented on, i did not say one bad thing regarding the tennessee basketball team.

most of the players on the current football roster have not given me many positive moments to work with.

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