Prentiss Waggner 'cool' with switch

Tennessee defensive back Prentiss Waggner (23) runs a drill during the Vols' practice on campus Tuesday, March 22, 2011.

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee defensive back Prentiss Waggner (23) runs a drill during the Vols' practice on campus Tuesday, March 22, 2011.

Prentiss Waggner had no problem learning on the fly when he switched positions midway through the 2010 season.

In fact, the Tennessee junior thrived after moving out of his starting spot at free safety and into a role at cornerback. He even piled up enough interceptions, defensive touchdowns and fumble recoveries to land on the All-SEC second team defense.

That experience has made switching positions for the second time in six months nothing short of smooth.

"It's not frustrating at all," Waggner said after Wednesday's practice, the second of the spring. "As long as I'm out there having fun and running to the ball and trying to make plays for my team, I'm cool with that."

The Vols don't have many options at safety this spring, as there weren't many on the roster in the first place and standout Janzen Jackson is out for the spring with personal issues. A number of options will arrive in the fall via UT's 2011 signing class, but, for now, there was little choice but to slide Waggner back next to Brent Brewer, who just recently returned to the team after a five-week suspension.

It's uncertain where Waggner will line up for the season opener against Montana, but his versatility to play pretty much anywhere in the defensive backfield certainly isn't crimping his performance.

"It gives you a greater grasp of the defense," coach Derek Dooley said. "It certainly helps his ability to play. The more you know, the more opportunity you'll have."

Waggner, who is up five pounds from last year and hopes to be 10 pounds heavier by the fall, said the knowledge he acquired at safety aided in his breakout performance at cornerback during the second half of the season, as he finished with five interceptions, three of which he took back for touchdowns.

"I know the defense," Waggner said. "I know basically all the plays and all the checks, So I have a feel for both of the positions."

The safety position has not been as sore of a spot as many may have envisioned, as Dooley said Brewer has shown little signs of rust from his suspension, which prevented him from attending meetings or working out with the team. Sophomore Dontavis Sapp, who played largely on special teams last season, has also performed well with the second-team secondary, Dooley said.

"His key is he's going to have to have tremendous knowledge of the defense," Dooley said. "He can't run, of course, like Janzen or Brent back there. And that's OK. Doesn't mean he can't be a good player but you just need a lot of reps."

Practice Report: The Vols started Wednesday's practice outside at Haslam Field, moved inside to the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center because of lightning and heavy rain, moved back outside when the skies cleared and then finished inside.

Dooley put a positive spin on the back-and-forth.

"We had a little rain and got a little wet ball work," Dooley said. "A good beginning to start conditioning the mind when things don't go as planned. So that was good to see. We scripted it just right."

The Vols will don pads and go through full contact at today's practice.

"I told them today that I've never seen one team win a conference championship that wasn't physical. It doesn't happen," Dooley said. "They need to go to bed tonight and wake up with a physical mindset tomorrow. It's going to be Day 1 of turning us into a physical football team."

Pain In The Toe: Six months later, cornerback Marsalis Teague said he's still going through daily rehab sessions for a turf toe injury he suffered midway through the 2010 season.

"I'm trying to get better," Teague said. "Everything else has been good. It definitely feels better than it did during the season.

"I try not to worry about it."

Teague, a junior, sat out two games with the injury before returning as a reserve in late October and finishing the final two games of the season as a starter.

Rogers Sidelined: Junior wide receiver Zach Rogers sat out a few drills during the open media portion with an apparent leg injury.

Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him athttp://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble

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Comments » 5

VolinCalif writes:

What's there to say until we get more reports.

CroKev writes:

I can't wait for FB. I tackled the neighbor's dog this morning on the way to work and now I'm afraid to go back home and face his owners...

Valoisvol writes:

Yeah, but can Waggoner tackle? I don't care how well you know the defense, if you can't tackle you shouldn't play

pomp_and_circumstance writes:

in response to Valoisvol:

Yeah, but can Waggoner tackle? I don't care how well you know the defense, if you can't tackle you shouldn't play

Can anybody tackle? Fifty years ago my high school coach drilled "TACKLE THE BELT BUCKLE!!!" That way the runner can juke his feet any faking direction, but his belt buckle stays a stationary target. That went out of style and throw your body (with your eyes closed) at the runner's ankles became the rage. That gave way to the one arm tackle, which evolved to at least slap him with one hand and hope someone is fast enough to jump on his back before he makes the end zone. Dooley says he is going back to basics to teach tackling. There is nothing more basic than tackling a runner's belt buckle.

givehim6 writes:

in response to Valoisvol:

Yeah, but can Waggoner tackle? I don't care how well you know the defense, if you can't tackle you shouldn't play

I do not remembed how well he tackled lest year but I do remember him returning quit a few pics back for UT TD I like the kid! Teach him to wrap up and tackle good and he is aces in my book.

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