Prentiss Waggner’s hands full in UT’s secondary

Tennessee defensive back Prentiss Waggner runs back an interception for a touchdown against UT Martin at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010. UT won the game 50-0.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee defensive back Prentiss Waggner runs back an interception for a touchdown against UT Martin at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010. UT won the game 50-0.

Almost as soon as there was no need for precautionary measures, the cast was coming off Prentiss Waggner.

Not surprisingly, the Tennessee defensive back has found it much easier to make a catch with two healthy hands now than it was in spring practice when it looked like he had a softball covered in tape attached to his left arm.

Apparently the minor setback in camp in April that cut his well-known ball skills in half hasn’t done anything to slow Waggner down as the Vols have thrown it around during offseason workouts this summer.

“Oh yeah, seven-on-seven drills, (quarterback) Tyler Bray is having a little trouble with me,” Waggner said last week during an appearance at a camp led by former teammate Eric Berry. “I’ve picked him off like twice already.

“I was glad to take the cast off. I’ve got my strength back after that. Everything is going good. I’ve been doing my rehab on my hand and I’m back at 100 percent right now.”

X-rays taken in the spring never revealed a break in the hand, though that didn’t make it any less painful or troublesome for the junior as he tried to build on the momentum from his breakout campaign last season.

Preseason hype was starting to pour in for the versatile defensive back, who was shuffled back and forth between safety and cornerback and was focusing on the former with Janzen Jackson not enrolled for classes during camp.

Long renowned for his knack for making big plays in the secondary, Waggner was sporting his oversized mix of tape and a pad on his left hand when the Lott IMPACT Trophy committee named him to its watch list near the end of spring practice, an honor directly tied to his five interceptions, three fumble recoveries and three touchdowns as a sophomore.

And while nabbing a pass or scooping up a loose ball wasn’t much of an option this spring, Waggner still was able to pick up some valuable reps despite the injury as he continues to market himself as an invaluable part of the rotation at the back of the UT defense — whether it’s at corner, safety or some combination of the two.

“Right now, when we’re doing seven-on-seven drills, I’m just out there flying around wherever the team needs me,” Waggner said. “I’m helping on the young guys real well, guys like (junior-college transfer) Byron Moore, (true freshman) Brian Randolph, they’re coming along real well and picking up the system real fast, learning all the checks.

“I think they’re going to be key contributors this fall.”

The Vols are obviously counting on Waggner to be the same thing in the secondary, and his ability to play multiple roles could be critical when practice officially resumes and the coaching staff begins sorting through what it has defensively.

UT put a clear emphasis on adding depth in the secondary with its latest recruiting class, and the potential return of Jackson along with all the newcomers could make the defensive backfield a position of strength — and perhaps lead to a scheme that more regularly features five on the field at a time.

Waggner certainly is planning on being one of them, and since he’s willing to fill any of the spots, he’s also preparing for two handfuls of playing time.

“The day after the spring game I took the cast off,” Waggner said. “It was just on there for precautionary reasons, being out there for practice, the spring game.

“Now the goal is to gain like five or 10 pounds, be more of a mental leader on the field. Just basically, I’m working hard and training for the upcoming season, because it’s going to be a long one.”

Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward

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Comments » 24

givehim6 writes:

Glad to have you back there to make opposing teams QB's nerves. Need a expernced safty to be the next Eric Berry now JJ's gone.

Whiskey_Wizard writes:

in response to givehim6:

Glad to have you back there to make opposing teams QB's nerves. Need a expernced safty to be the next Eric Berry now JJ's gone.

He will never be another Eric Berry.

Kelly8 writes:

Also has their hands full with UT's secondary?

Lacey Pearl Earps

VolGrad writes:

He doesn't need to be an Eric Berry. He's doing real good just being Prentiss Waggner.

SWVA_RockyTopVol writes:

Not sure if it's a good thing that PW picked off Bray twice or if it's a bad thing that Bray threw 2 interceptions in 7-on-7 drills. Regardless, our secondary will be pretty solid for the most part. JJ will be back so no one should worry

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors_Daddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

And, facts don't lie about a troll like you.

The real Witch Doctor owns you. Nothing a cheap stalking, copy cat like you matters here.

A sure sign of weakness and envy when someone copies another's name.

Loser.................

VOLliven2it writes:

I'm keeping this Prentiss Waggner and am glad he will be up to speed. It will be a long year. We know that. But going out, giving your all, that is what will be needed and Prentiss will do that without a doubt. I am not sure whatever the holdout is with J. Jackson is good for this young team. We will see what happens there.

seaplane#216536 writes:

Hope the def secondary coach concentrates on the basics of tackling. The def backs were terrible last year bringing them down.

gatorhator4eva writes:

dooley is just messin with other teams. jackson will play, there just playing it off like they wont have him. jackson is a game changing player. make the other team believe he wont play, they wont prepare for him.

TommyJack writes:

thread ruined by yoots and kns paid trolls.

easleychuck writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors_Daddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Jealous much?

FearTheVols1252 writes:

in response to gatorhator4eva:

dooley is just messin with other teams. jackson will play, there just playing it off like they wont have him. jackson is a game changing player. make the other team believe he wont play, they wont prepare for him.

I heard on the radio yesterday that JJ was enrolled in summer school and it looks like he will almost certainly be rejoining the team. Haven't seen any reports on here about it... maybe I just missed something or perhaps 104.5 The Zone was speaking a little prematurely. Don't know...

Volunatic writes:

in response to TommyJack:

thread ruined by yoots and kns paid trolls.

Did you say "yoots"? What is a "yoot"?

Volunatic writes:

In what round was Taylor Mays drafted?

bkwats2003#237114 writes:

in response to Volunatic:

Did you say "yoots"? What is a "yoot"?

Judge Chamberlain Haller asked the same question.

therealUT98 writes:

in response to LaneKiffinFan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Berry was in the the pro bowl this year at a position where he beat out ed reed to be in.. Mays is a great player but no where near Berry. Not a chance, Mays hit Pac-10 players not Moreno,Tebow,Maze go look up the hits and compare and Mays out weighs Berry by 15 lbs

Volunatic writes:

How many Super Bowls has Tom Brady won since the Patriots were caught cheating and forced to stop videotaping opponents signals?

Volunatic writes:

I accept your surrender.

MrsFish writes:

in response to LaneKiffinFan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Who in the world is Taylor Mays. Never heard of him.

MrsFish writes:

in response to bkwats2003#237114:

Judge Chamberlain Haller asked the same question.

One of my all time favorite movies. Hilarious!

FarmerVol writes:

in response to FearTheVols1252:

I heard on the radio yesterday that JJ was enrolled in summer school and it looks like he will almost certainly be rejoining the team. Haven't seen any reports on here about it... maybe I just missed something or perhaps 104.5 The Zone was speaking a little prematurely. Don't know...

Yep - he changes games. He changed the bowl game all by him self.

murrayvol writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors_Daddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Channeling Charlie Sheen won't help.

DC_Vol writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors_Daddy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Now you are copying Charlie Sheen.

You need to learn to develop your own identity in life. Imitating others shows a lack of confidence in your own abilities to interact with others and think independently in life. These are skills you must work on to be a complete human being and to build relationships in life.

Seriously, I have read several of your posts and clearly you need to talk to someone. Take the first step and talk to a counselor, but just get help.

woahitsme writes:

I'm just glad that we're slowly getting back on the right track. I understand it will take time to get back to the way things used to be. I'm not worried about replacing old great's that used to play. Those days are in the past and they were great. But we just need to keep focusing on building the program back up. I believe we are heading in the right direction.

Go Vols.

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