John Adams: One cornerback laments loss of another

Tennessee defensive back Prentiss Waggner talks with the media after practice at Science Hill High School's Steve Spurrier Field in Kermit Tipton Stadium in Johnson City, Tenn., Friday, Aug. 10, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, copyright © 2012

Tennessee defensive back Prentiss Waggner talks with the media after practice at Science Hill High School's Steve Spurrier Field in Kermit Tipton Stadium in Johnson City, Tenn., Friday, Aug. 10, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Prentiss Waggner on Honey Badger's dismissal and JC practice

JOHNSON CITY — The football surroundings were a pleasant surprise for Tennessee senior cornerback Prentiss Waggner.

The Science Hill stadium and field better resembled college facilities than the high school stadium where Waggner once played in the small town of Clinton, La.

"Aw man, this is 10 times nicer than Clinton," he said Friday as the Vols began their week of practice off campus. "When they told me I was going to a high school, I wasn't expecting field turf or anything like that."

He wasn't expecting the scoreboard, either.

"Steve Spurrier Field," it read in honor of the high school's most famous quarterback.

"I didn't know it was Steve Spurrier Field until like the last period," he said. "I was real pleased about that."

He wasn't so pleased at the mention of another prominent SEC name.

"Did you hear that Tyrann Mathieu was dismissed from LSU (for violation of team and school rules)?" he was asked.

His face showed his disappointment before he said, "That's real sad to hear. I love Tyrann Mathieu."

You probably could have gotten a similar reaction from almost any corner of college football. LSU's All-American cornerback, a. k. a. "The Honey Badger," not only has established himself as one of the game's best-known players. He's above all else a player's player, especially if the player is on defense.

Former UT All-American safety Eric Berry has beamed when discussing Mathieu, whose playmaking prowess was accentuated in a defense that allowed him to stray from the traditional assignments of his position.

Although Mathieu played high school football in New Orleans, Waggner never saw him play until Mathieu attended UT's summer camp in 2009.

"He pretty much locked down everybody at the camp," Waggner said. "I said, 'This guy's something special.' I remember Inky Johnson complimenting him on almost every rep.

"The way he strips the ball away — he has a certain talent. He always finds the ball."

Waggner has a knack for that himself, although you couldn't have proved it by last season. In 2010, Waggner had five interceptions and recovered three fumbles on his way to making second-team All-SEC.

Last season, the ball was more elusive. He had two interceptions but dropped two others. On each of those drops, the offensive player knocked the ball from Waggner. As a result, he has spent the offseason strengthening his grip — with the help of a tip from teammate Devrin Young.

"He had me put my hands in a (bucket) of rice," he said. "He does it every day. Look at those forearms (pointing to Young a few yards away)."

Waggner's forearms might not be as noticeable, but he's stronger by virtue of the rice regimen. A summer of twisting his hands in a bucket of rice isn't the only reason he's more confident about the upcoming season. He believes his coverage skills have improved by going against UT's talented receivers.

The improvement is timely.

Sal Sunseri, UT's new defensive coordinator, places a premium on one-on-one coverage, just as Nick Saban, his former boss, does at Alabama.

"With these zone and man blitzes, Coach Sal is going to dial it up," Waggner said. "Either you can cover or you're not gonna cover. He's going to dial it up anyway.

"Being on that island will make or break you."

Mathieu's departure will create another opportunity. There's now a playmaker void on defense in the SEC.

Maybe Waggner can help fill it.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 19

Tenn64 writes:

Someone had to write this for JA and he just penned his name.

VolinCalif writes:

Now 64 John is OK. Besides If he hadn't told us how to run from a alligator I would never felt comfortable taking my grand kids to the deep south.

DannyVol writes:

The KNS did its best to keep the Bray beer bottle incident going for as long as possible, way past the point where it remained a story. The KNS pulls no punches when it comes to the Vols -- ever. But let an LSU player get kicked off the team way past the point where he should have been on the team in the first place and Adams writes a story praising him? Had this been a UT player, Adams would've tried to blister the entire program by chronicling every misstep toward last year's 5-7 season. He hates our program, our coaches, our players, and our fans. There isn't one other SEC town that would tolerate the type of undermining hate that spews from his keyboard every week. In Fayetteville, they fire reporters for wearing Florida baseball caps; in Knoxville, we put up with an enemy of the program as sports editor.

chuckfromwoodberry writes:

Apparently Tyrann was recklessly recycling in a no wake zone! The Honey Badger transforms into Puff the Magic Dragon! Bawhahahahahah!!!!!

chuckfromwoodberry writes:

Just figured it out. JA is using an old political ploy. Dump a story you don't want to get traction on a Friday night. With todays 24 hour news cycle people will have forgotten it by Monday. The one thing you didn't count on JA, the only animal with a longer memory than an elephant is a Tennessee Coonhound. GBO! VFL!

eVOLved writes:

in response to Tenn64:

Someone had to write this for JA and he just penned his name.

i'm a big time hater, and I liked this one

CrankE writes:

If only KNS might make a similar dismissal and fire Debbby. . .again.

FIRE JOHN ADAMS!

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

Re our local yokel.........Adams. He's a lot like the kid, Bodeane. They care not about what we say about him. They just like the attention. Adams' articles are bad enough...
just listening to the whiny voice is even worse.

As far as reporters are concerned, there is Jimmy Hyams. Yesterday, Jimmy went so far as to basically predict a Vol win over the punk-kid, Bodeane's bandwagon team.

SevenT writes:

This Adams moron should do a follow story on Janzen Jackson tommorrow.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

Question...........are any of you as obsessed with another school's website as much as the following trolls are with Tennessee's GVX.....Seven, Eight, punk-kid Bodeane????

I think not, thank goodness.

123forVOLS writes:

There might be a lot of love for the player Mathieu yet nothing but disdain for the stupidity that put him in his current position.
But it will be even sadder if the fact that he will get to play somewhere else ere be it a lower division, he does not really learn his lesson. So often that happens with the great athletes and they never recover. I hope it does not with the Honey-Badger. Anything can be turned completely around if worked on with determination.

BMSvol writes:

he can play for us next year!

AtLannaVol writes:

in response to DannyVol:

The KNS did its best to keep the Bray beer bottle incident going for as long as possible, way past the point where it remained a story. The KNS pulls no punches when it comes to the Vols -- ever. But let an LSU player get kicked off the team way past the point where he should have been on the team in the first place and Adams writes a story praising him? Had this been a UT player, Adams would've tried to blister the entire program by chronicling every misstep toward last year's 5-7 season. He hates our program, our coaches, our players, and our fans. There isn't one other SEC town that would tolerate the type of undermining hate that spews from his keyboard every week. In Fayetteville, they fire reporters for wearing Florida baseball caps; in Knoxville, we put up with an enemy of the program as sports editor.

Dude, did Adams put you down in front of your girlfriend or something?

I read it. Enjoyed it. Thought it was a good article and can't wait for the first game.

You read it and evidently saw the devil coming through the fingertips of Adams. Whatever your beef is with Adams, you need to LET IT GO. He's good. I'm guessing he was writing about the Vols before you could walk. He's old-school but the world needs old-school.

MilitaryBrat writes:

in response to DannyVol:

The KNS did its best to keep the Bray beer bottle incident going for as long as possible, way past the point where it remained a story. The KNS pulls no punches when it comes to the Vols -- ever. But let an LSU player get kicked off the team way past the point where he should have been on the team in the first place and Adams writes a story praising him? Had this been a UT player, Adams would've tried to blister the entire program by chronicling every misstep toward last year's 5-7 season. He hates our program, our coaches, our players, and our fans. There isn't one other SEC town that would tolerate the type of undermining hate that spews from his keyboard every week. In Fayetteville, they fire reporters for wearing Florida baseball caps; in Knoxville, we put up with an enemy of the program as sports editor.

I agree about Adams.

First he starts off his "article" talking about UT, then like you said, he goes into a love fest talking up Mathias.

But if the "Honey Badger" was a Vol, do you honestly think he would be praising him?
he would start off saying it it was no surprise, since he was suspended last year for a failed Drug screen. Adams would have said he should have been kicked off the team then. He would bring up all the cheap shots he takes on players, and he would imply the coaches are fostering thugs and drug addicts.

DalTexVol writes:

in response to AtLannaVol:

Dude, did Adams put you down in front of your girlfriend or something?

I read it. Enjoyed it. Thought it was a good article and can't wait for the first game.

You read it and evidently saw the devil coming through the fingertips of Adams. Whatever your beef is with Adams, you need to LET IT GO. He's good. I'm guessing he was writing about the Vols before you could walk. He's old-school but the world needs old-school.

You may like JA's writing, but let me correct your notion that he is a good sportswriter. His articles rarely have interesting facts or investigative interviews. They mostly consist of his unsubstantiated opinions, wisecracks and innuendos without any factual basis. I remember Tom Siler when he covered the Vols and he was an outstanding college football journalist. I remember how the sports writers in Dallas uncovered the unprecedented corruption at SMU that led to the school receiving the death penalty. You can make a list of all the great sportwriters in the country and JA will not be on that list.

MilitaryBrat writes:

in response to AtLannaVol:

Dude, did Adams put you down in front of your girlfriend or something?

I read it. Enjoyed it. Thought it was a good article and can't wait for the first game.

You read it and evidently saw the devil coming through the fingertips of Adams. Whatever your beef is with Adams, you need to LET IT GO. He's good. I'm guessing he was writing about the Vols before you could walk. He's old-school but the world needs old-school.

The article was overall okay. but adams is known for being a LSU fan, so he will try to protect their image.

the problem most people have with Adams is he is constantly critizes UT. He is a sports writer for a paper that is in a college town.
Go to any college town, and read the sports writing. They want to support the team, not tear it down.

I don't want a cheer leader. I want to know the bad, but not at the expense of the good.

Adams has had more postive writing this month. But only to hedge his bets, because if he says will have a bad year, but UT rocks, he looks worst than he already does.

But watch the next time something bad happens or we lose a game. Then you will see his true colors.

AtLannaVol writes:

in response to DalTexVol:

You may like JA's writing, but let me correct your notion that he is a good sportswriter. His articles rarely have interesting facts or investigative interviews. They mostly consist of his unsubstantiated opinions, wisecracks and innuendos without any factual basis. I remember Tom Siler when he covered the Vols and he was an outstanding college football journalist. I remember how the sports writers in Dallas uncovered the unprecedented corruption at SMU that led to the school receiving the death penalty. You can make a list of all the great sportwriters in the country and JA will not be on that list.

I'm sure there are alot of good sportswriters in Dallas. And Atlanta. And Chicago. But you can't compare a KNS reporter to them. If he was a good as them, he wouldn't be in the Knoxville market making Knoxville-market money. I know I wouldn't.

I'm not saying the guy is Pulitzer Prize material. I quit reading the comments months ago because I expected to read comments about the players and the team--not a critique on the sportswriter. And if this was an isolated incident, it wouldn't matter to me. But it's not. Every article he writes on this site has the comment section all cluttered up with stuff about Adams.
It just looks to me like somebody with a grudge is trying to get the guy canned.
It's just a little too over-the-top for me.

AtLannaVol writes:

in response to MilitaryBrat:

The article was overall okay. but adams is known for being a LSU fan, so he will try to protect their image.

the problem most people have with Adams is he is constantly critizes UT. He is a sports writer for a paper that is in a college town.
Go to any college town, and read the sports writing. They want to support the team, not tear it down.

I don't want a cheer leader. I want to know the bad, but not at the expense of the good.

Adams has had more postive writing this month. But only to hedge his bets, because if he says will have a bad year, but UT rocks, he looks worst than he already does.

But watch the next time something bad happens or we lose a game. Then you will see his true colors.

I agree with you about the positive spin most sportwriters put on the team they are covering. Lately, that type of writing is what you find on "read for pay" sites because it's an easy way to get people to spend their money. I'm always suckered in by a headline that reads "10 Reasons that The Vols will shock the world and win the SEC in 2012"
You click on it and it ask you to subscribe to the site to see the article. Maybe I'm an old-school realist, but too much spin makes me a little dizzy.
Like him or not, I'm done talking about him. I'd rather read about the team.

RashaadSalabeb writes:

in response to DannyVol:

The KNS did its best to keep the Bray beer bottle incident going for as long as possible, way past the point where it remained a story. The KNS pulls no punches when it comes to the Vols -- ever. But let an LSU player get kicked off the team way past the point where he should have been on the team in the first place and Adams writes a story praising him? Had this been a UT player, Adams would've tried to blister the entire program by chronicling every misstep toward last year's 5-7 season. He hates our program, our coaches, our players, and our fans. There isn't one other SEC town that would tolerate the type of undermining hate that spews from his keyboard every week. In Fayetteville, they fire reporters for wearing Florida baseball caps; in Knoxville, we put up with an enemy of the program as sports editor.

Sad but true. This is the most negative newspaper towards the local team I've ever seen. It hasn't always been that way. Come on KNS report the good stuff too.

Go Vols! This is going to be a good year!

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