Tennessee defensive back Byron Moore talks after practice Monday
It was hard to find anyone who had more fun throughout his recruitment than Tennessee defensive back Byron Moore.
Perhaps it had something to do with it being the second time in three years for the Los Angeles native, who spent one season at Southern Cal before moving on to a local junior college.
Moore interacted with fans on Twitter throughout the process that dragged into February, often changing his avatar to the logo of the school he was currently visiting. When he announced that he was headed to UT, Moore did it via an Internet podcast hosted by his father on a show that also featured former NFL wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson.
That previous experience, though, paid dividends when Moore arrived on campus this summer, a time when star signees are typically "unrecruited" with intensive conditioning and weightlifting that put them in their place in a hurry.
"They're going to tell you what you want to hear while you're getting recruited," said Moore, a four-star recruit who was also courted by Miami, Ohio State and Oregon State. "Once you get here, you're just part of the team, so it's time to go to work.
"They're not telling you how good you are and stuff like that. It's over."
In UT's secondary, Moore is just one the guys now. And there's a lot of them.
Like a number of the newcomers in the defensive backfield, Moore is floating between safety and cornerback. Where he'll end up when UT opens the season remains uncertain, but odds are he will be on the field in some fashion.
"A lot of it depends on what the other guys can do," coach Derek Dooley said after Monday's practice. "I just don't know yet. We're still trying to figure it out."
Izauea Lanier, a junior-college transfer out of Mississippi, is one of the few exceptions. Even though he arrived with most of his experience coming at safety, he's all but locked in as a cornerback, Dooley said.
"He's a big guy for a corner, he runs well enough," Dooley said. "I've been real pleased with his attitude. He's working."
Though both Moore and Lanier came to camp with a full year of experience at their respective junior colleges, they were treated like every other freshman through the first three days of camp, working separately from the veterans whom they're trying to usurp for playing time. It wasn't until Friday when Moore and Lanier were going against players that were the same age as them.
"We're all here for the same reason and we're all good enough to play here," Moore said. "It's just staying humble and working hard in practices, that's how I'm looking at it."
With the Vols set to run plenty of nickel, which puts five defensive backs on the field at once, versatility is all but required from those hoping to play. Moore certainly isn't alone when he moves from position to position, as freshman Brian Randolph and veterans Prentiss Waggner, Janzen Jackson and Eric Gordon are all picking up repetitions at multiple positions.
None have come out publicly to say which position they prefer. Moore was just the latest to take a politically correct stance Monday.
"Whichever one gets me on the field fastest," he said, "is the one I prefer."
Mentally, both Lanier and Moore have been focused on what they planned to do with the Vols for months.
Lanier was ready to participate in spring practice, but was held back for another semester at East Mississippi Community College because of an academic issue. Moore, meanwhile, had no intentions to arrive early, but spent the spring with his head buried in UT's defensive playbook, learning all the intricacies of a defense coordinator Justin Wilcox envisions to be more complex than his short-handed attack of 2010.
They're just two of a number of players who hope to give UT one of the best secondaries in the SEC, but Moore and Lanier carry an inherent level of maturity and experience that gives them a bit of an edge throughout this wide open competition.
"I think that's going to help him out, and he can do a lot of different things," secondary coach Terry Joseph said of Moore. "That's one thing about Lanier and Moore, that they're versatile."