Outside of the natural talent and an ability to hit someone with the power of a 250-pound linebacker, there's something different about how Janzen Jackson plays his position.
After Saturday's practice — Tennessee's first in pads — coach Derek Dooley said it was the "gambler" in his junior safety.
It's what has helped Jackson to emerge as one of the SEC's top defensive playmakers, but it's not always the best thing.
"A guy who gambles when he's way in the back, if he misses it's like putting all your (roulette) money on Black 22," Dooley said. "It's over."
That's why Jackson, along with a handful of others from UT's deep pool of defensive backs, is picking up plenty of repetitions at nickel back.
"We're really experimenting with a lot of guys," Dooley said. "Just trying to find the right combination of who's your best five and where you're going to put them on the field."
Also picking up work at the nickel are freshman Justin Coleman and redshirt sophomore Eric Gordon, both of whom typically play cornerback.
Jackson, though, presents the most interesting case. If he's playing at nickel, UT loses its "save-our-ship guy" in the back end, but that might be easier to replace now that the Vols boast a secondary loaded with young talent.
"If you move him up a little bit, you're kind of spreading out your bets because you've got guys behind him if he misses that can make the tackle," Dooley said. "It allows him to be a little more aggressive in reading the quarterback and taking some chances without really killing us.
"He's an active, fast-twitch, instinctive guy, so I think it can disrupt a quarterback a little bit more by moving him down."
Jackson, who withdrew from UT in February because of "personal reasons" before re-enrolling last month, has not been made available to reporters through the first week of camp.
The Neal Deal: With the addition of two talented freshmen, UT's backfield is significantly more crowded than it was at this point of last season.
That's allowed Dooley and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to flex some creativity with the use of sophomore Rajion Neal, who has received plenty of work with the wide receivers through the first week of camp.
"We're going to try to create ways to get him in space and get the ball to him where his speed can help him a little bit more," Dooley said. "We're kind of playing around with him as a specialty guy."
The sample size is small, but Neal has already proved capable out in space with the ball in the air.
As a freshman, he hauled in a 58-yard reception that set up a touchdown against Georgia and picked up a 26-yard gain on a similar rail route two weeks later against Alabama.
Neal, who struggled near the end of the season, finished with 197 rushing yards and 100 receiving.
"I just got that hunger to be great and definitely help this team and contribute way more than I did last year," Neal said Tuesday. "I'm willing to work, I'm ready to work and I'm trying to get there anyway I can."
King Me: Going down with an injury hasn't gotten any easier for junior linebacker Greg King, but he seems to have the recovery part all figured out.
"Every time it becomes depressing, but you've got to fight through it," King said. "You've got to do that for you and the team."
King's most recent surgery came during the summer, when his right knee went under the knife for an arthroscopic procedure. He's played 13 games over the past two years, starting in two. Both his freshman and sophomore seasons were marred by injuries.
"They've got good hope and high expectations of me," King said. "I really want to be able to show them, but it comes down to where you've got to be healthy and you've got to be on top of everything."
Practice Report: The Vols have today off after their first full-pads practice of the fall Saturday. It began at Haslam Field but ended inside the Neyland Thompson Sports Center because of lightning in the area.
"The whole day was pretty physical," Dooley said. "The pads were popping and the team's doing a good job. I'm looking for things to criticize, but I've been pleased with them."