Despite key absences, Joseph encouraged by work of secondary

Joseph on the Vols' defensive backs

The first option bolted for the NFL.

The second has been held out of contact drills all spring after shoulder surgery.

But even without a combination that would have been both seasoned and talented enough to thrive for a more aggressive Tennessee secondary, Terry Joseph isn't exactly working with an empty cupboard.

Dennis Rogan may have left early and Art Evans might be missing some valuable practice time, but cornerback appears to be one area where the Vols don't have to stress out too much right now.

"I don't think we have a lockdown guy right now, but I think we have a good group of guys that are going to be pretty productive on Saturdays," Joseph said. "And competition always helps make the group better. If a guy goes down, the next guy needs to step up, take his reps and make us better as a group.

"We're going to keep competing and pushing each other every day."

Ideally the Vols would be doing that with Rogan and Evans, then trying to develop some depth behind them.

But if nothing else, the absence of both has provided an early opportunity for a couple of freshmen to try to slide into those spots, and Eric Gordon and Nyshier Oliver are making a strong case for them so far.

"Two guys coming off a redshirt season, they just need to get snaps, get snaps, they'll get better and better," Joseph said. "Eric's one of the guys who is really excited to have a clean slate, and he's been doing well. He's coming along at a nice pace right now, so we're excited about him.

"Every day is a learning process for him, and as he continues to mature, he's going to understand it takes more than ability to get on the football field."

Natural talent is a great place to start though, and both Gordon and Oliver have plenty of that. They've also drawn praise from the coaching staff for playing with a lot of energy and excitement, which also isn't something that can really be coached.

The next step is soaking in things like adjusting to another new scheme early in their careers, figuring out their roles in coverage and continuing to adapt to the speed of the game at the college level after going a year without playing a game. Then, when that's paired with the athleticism, the two could be hard to get off the field even with Evans back in the mix.

"They go through a lot of the same things as the offensive guys do," coach Derek Dooley said. "You're having to learn new coverages, then you're having to defend the different patterns, so you're matching patterns, and if you're not playing fast and quick, you're going to get beat.

"But it's the same deal, just like we evaluate quarterbacks - 'What can the corner do, what techniques does he do well, what causes struggles with him?' "

The Vols aren't even close to finding final answers for all those questions, but the early responses have been encouraging.

Oliver and Gordon seem to have stepped to the front of the line. Anthony Anderson or C.J. Fleming might emerge to provide some help as well. And in a system that needs a deep core of defensive backs to stop the run and pass alike, they could all wind up being a factor.

"Being a football player, you need to be aggressive, and cornerback is no different," Joseph said. "A lockdown, cover corner is probably not going to fare well in the SEC tackling those big backs from Alabama and the other schools.

"You need to be physical and show that you're not going to shy away from contact - that's going to help you get on the field."

Injuries and an early departure may have helped get them there. But either way, now it's up to Oliver and Gordon to make a case to stay.

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Comments » 23

VolGrad writes:

We definitely need some consistency out of the cornerback position. Hopefully Art Evans can get back in there and up to speed soon.

tenuscvol writes:

Good to see the healthy competition. I've always beleived you can win with a bunch of two's and three's who are all trying to be fours and fives...GBO!

CLEMSONVOL716WASBANNED writes:

in response to allVolinGA:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I can understand your outlook. I believe that CDD knows what it will take to win games in the SEC, I'm just not sure, that as of now, the VOLS have everything it takes to be a consistent winner in the SEC. I do believe that we are on the right track and headed that way. Whether CDD can take us that far remains to be seen, but I do believe he will be good for the program in Knoxville.

TitanandVolfan4life writes:

CTJ and CDD might have been at a smaller school the last 3 years but they DID play against LSU, Bama and other big time football schools and CDD was with Nick Satan as a coach and recruiting coordinator at LSU when 2 of the top classes in the country were recruited and helped LSU win a National Championship so they DO know what it takes in the SEC and I'll never understand why so many think our coaching staff knows nothing about playing against big time football programs.

Coach Terry Joseph is also a VERY smart, well organised and personable person which is why he was made the recruiting coordinator to make a good 1st impression on the phone with the high school kids and their parents and to organise the appointments for all the other coaches to make in person visits to meet those high school kids and their parents and do their in person recruiting work.

Our UT Vols do NOT have a bunch of coaches that have been coaching high school football the last several years so give them 3 or 4 years to recruit and get their players for their systems on the field and you just might be in for some good surprises.

GO BIG ORANGE !!!

Muscle_Shoals_Vol writes:

Can't wait to see these guys at the O&W game

82cat writes:

Folks who knows about this year??

I am usually the optimistic type but I just have a bad feeling about this year.

I am afraid this is the year we bottom out before our climb out. Remember we have already had 2 losing seasons out of the last 4 and were 1 game away from a non winning season last yr.

I am still on board but----- 3 wins is a possibility.

Hope Im wrong

Orangeatang writes:

This is gonna be an ugly year. God help us.

Orangeatang writes:

Akron: Win
Oregon: Loss
Florida: Loss
UAB: Win
LSU: Loss
Georgia: Loss
Alabama: Loss
S. Car: Toss-up
Memphis: Win
Ole Miss: Toss-up
Vandy: Win
Kentucky: Toss-up

4 guaranteed wins. 3 toss-ups. Best case scenario: 6-6.

hueypilot writes:

6-6, 8-4??? Who knows? That's why we watch. Great thing about college football is you are guaranteed an entirely new cast of characters every four years and a different cast of characters each and every year.

SickEmSmokey writes:

This is what I have :
Akron: Win
Oregon: Toss-Up
Florida: Toss-Up
UAB: Win
LSU: Loss
Georgia: Loss
Alabama: Loss
S. Car: Win
Memphis: Win
Ole Miss: Win
Vandy: Win
Kentucky: Win

Oregon with the loss of it's star QB and RB is going to have a tough time traveling to Knoxville for one of the biggest game (and crowds) of the season.

Florida, with the loss of Tim Tebow and physical defense, shouldnt have a tough time replacing but it'll be tough for some of those new guys to come in and win in such a harsh environment.

LSU, Is hungry and playing for possibly and SEC Championship. In Death Valley, our Vols will have a tough time. Remember 2005 though, anything can happen.

Georgia will be eager for a win after the 45-19 blowout last year and 3 of the last 4. Between the Hedges is no easy place to play.

Alabama, will depend on their QB play, we will need to shut down the run to have a chance.

Tennacious writes:

As usual the schedule is more difficult early and eases somewhat after the Bama game. If we can get thru game seven at 3-4, I like our chances to get to seven wins. And a 7-5 season with a bowl, will be very good year. Let's have realistic expectations for this squad and the new staff.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

I had my doubts but Joseph looks like the right guy to lead this group..Luckily Kiffin did recruit some talent in the secondary; Coming in the fall Loften at the least will be a #2 guy and JUCO Clark may help.The secondary is full of "what ifs" and are sure to give up some yardage but the following year will be a strength..Actual game time playing is where DB's hone their skills and the SEC is full of many different styles of offense.

Volunatic writes:

I recall reading that Eddrick Loften isn't guaranteed to be academically eligible. Has he qualified?

Orangeatang writes:

in response to allVolinGA:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I pretty much agree with your assessment.

cooper65#432178 writes:

in response to SickEmSmokey:

This is what I have :
Akron: Win
Oregon: Toss-Up
Florida: Toss-Up
UAB: Win
LSU: Loss
Georgia: Loss
Alabama: Loss
S. Car: Win
Memphis: Win
Ole Miss: Win
Vandy: Win
Kentucky: Win

Oregon with the loss of it's star QB and RB is going to have a tough time traveling to Knoxville for one of the biggest game (and crowds) of the season.

Florida, with the loss of Tim Tebow and physical defense, shouldnt have a tough time replacing but it'll be tough for some of those new guys to come in and win in such a harsh environment.

LSU, Is hungry and playing for possibly and SEC Championship. In Death Valley, our Vols will have a tough time. Remember 2005 though, anything can happen.

Georgia will be eager for a win after the 45-19 blowout last year and 3 of the last 4. Between the Hedges is no easy place to play.

Alabama, will depend on their QB play, we will need to shut down the run to have a chance.

If UCLA could come to Ktown and win; I'm not sure how tough it will be for Oregon.

Alwaysavol writes:

in response to Orangeatang:

Akron: Win
Oregon: Loss
Florida: Loss
UAB: Win
LSU: Loss
Georgia: Loss
Alabama: Loss
S. Car: Toss-up
Memphis: Win
Ole Miss: Toss-up
Vandy: Win
Kentucky: Toss-up

4 guaranteed wins. 3 toss-ups. Best case scenario: 6-6.

Aren't we playing UT-Martin instead of Akron? Did I miss a schedule change?

Volunatic writes:

Declaring which games will be wins/losses before a CFB season starts, and then basing your opinion of the coaching staff on your prediction-- utterly ridiculous.
It's fine to make those guesses, but having watched CFB for 35+ years, I know ANYTHING can happen any given Saturday.
GO VOLS!!!

Orangeatang writes:

in response to Volunatic:

Declaring which games will be wins/losses before a CFB season starts, and then basing your opinion of the coaching staff on your prediction-- utterly ridiculous.
It's fine to make those guesses, but having watched CFB for 35+ years, I know ANYTHING can happen any given Saturday.
GO VOLS!!!

I don't think anybody here is basing their opinion of the coaching staff on what UT's record will be next year. To the contrary, I think everyone here is willing to acknowledge the fact that we will struggle next year, regardless of who our coaches are. If three years from now we are still struggling, then it's time to blame the coaches.

AllVols writes:

in response to SickEmSmokey:

This is what I have :
Akron: Win
Oregon: Toss-Up
Florida: Toss-Up
UAB: Win
LSU: Loss
Georgia: Loss
Alabama: Loss
S. Car: Win
Memphis: Win
Ole Miss: Win
Vandy: Win
Kentucky: Win

Oregon with the loss of it's star QB and RB is going to have a tough time traveling to Knoxville for one of the biggest game (and crowds) of the season.

Florida, with the loss of Tim Tebow and physical defense, shouldnt have a tough time replacing but it'll be tough for some of those new guys to come in and win in such a harsh environment.

LSU, Is hungry and playing for possibly and SEC Championship. In Death Valley, our Vols will have a tough time. Remember 2005 though, anything can happen.

Georgia will be eager for a win after the 45-19 blowout last year and 3 of the last 4. Between the Hedges is no easy place to play.

Alabama, will depend on their QB play, we will need to shut down the run to have a chance.

I actually agree with the Oregon classified as toss-up. However, do you REALLY think the Florida game will be a "toss-up?" No way. I'm sorry, but Florida is going to spank us. I dislike UF just as much as any true UT fan, but I'm not going to deny the inevitable. Their back-up for Tebow in Brantley is probably better than Crompton and Stephens combined.

I actually also agree with the last five games as wins. It will be tough to win five-in-a-row, but it is achieveable. SC and UK will be the toughest, but let's be honest, they really don't have that much to offer.

LSU is another team that will spank us. Russell Shepard is coming along for them and he is better than McCluster who killed UT this fall. Playing in death valley is bad enough. Their QB play is weak, but they make up for it with a great running offense, great defense front, and physicality.

Lastly, I don't agree with the UGA classified as "loss." We have a great record against UGA in the past 4 or 5 years and I expect it to continue.

bigorange61 writes:

Where are you guys getting "Akron" from?

givehim6 writes:

in response to Orangeatang:

Akron: Win
Oregon: Loss
Florida: Loss
UAB: Win
LSU: Loss
Georgia: Loss
Alabama: Loss
S. Car: Toss-up
Memphis: Win
Ole Miss: Toss-up
Vandy: Win
Kentucky: Toss-up

4 guaranteed wins. 3 toss-ups. Best case scenario: 6-6.

Akron? I thought we started the season @ UTM? Anyway I think our D will be our strength. I try not to predict a win or loss. just like pre-season polls. There's always a cinderella team and a bust team.

tractoronthepole writes:

Speaking of Corners did you see the 40 times the Berry twins class of 2014 turned in? Start recruiting those boys now Dooley.

The second fastest time 4.43 and brother a time of 4.46

http://tennessee.scout.com/2/960594.html

rbhobbs73#226545 writes:

I see it as:

UT Martin W
Oregon Toss Up
Florida L
UAB W
@ LSU L
@ Georgia Toss Up
Alabama L
@ South Carolina Toss Up
Ole Miss W
Memphis W
@ Vanderbilt W
Kentucky W

Oregon is still very talented and are much better than UCLA, who came here and beat us last year...but anything is possible at Neyland against a team that hasn't played here before.

We seem to play well against Georgia and while they may want payback...if you don't think Dooley will have them ready to play THAT game, you are crazy.

South Carolina is hyped every year and will have started their usual second half free fall. The only thing I worry about is injuries taking their toll and costing us a game on the road.

Memphis and Vanderbilt will be truly awful and we will win those games. We always beat Kentucky and their talent, while good for Kentucky, is still short of Tennessee's talent now. In Knoxville...UT wins this one. I see 7-5 or 8-4 for us and that will be a good start.

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