Cornerback Naz Oliver has healthy approach

For the first time in his college career, Tennessee cornerback Naz Oliver is healthy, in top shape, trusted by his coaches and in line for meaningful playing time.

Which is why Aug. 31 can't get here fast enough.

Oliver has never before been at such an important point in his bumpy, injury-riddled career, and he's hoping that the bad luck that has bedeviled him in the past will stay away for 11 more days.

"It's just exciting for me right now," Oliver said. "I'm just going to keep praying that I don't get hurt again and no one else on the team has to go through what I had to."

Oliver has been frequently hurt. Coaches have shuffled him between offense and defense. Regrettably, he might be best known for an embarrassing incident in 2009 when he was cited for shoplifting at West Town Mall.

Any hope of erasing that gaffe with his play on the field has been thwarted by injuries. He redshirted in 2009, missed 2010 with a torn ACL and then sat out 2011 after breaking his wrist.

But with the season opener looming, Oliver is putting the finishing touches on a strong camp that has placed him on the two-deep depth chart at cornerback.

"This is my first time going through camp being healthy in a while, so I'm like a kid in a candy shop," Oliver said Sunday. "I was just trying to suck it up and not quit. I was just trying to see that light at the end of the tunnel. I stuck with it, and here we are today."

Oliver said he was helped by getting a clean slate from the new coaches on staff, particularly first-year cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley.

"He has a lot of ability and explosive power," Ansley said. "He's really heavy handed when he puts his hands on people.. All of those elements are good for what we want to do at corner."

Oliver was a highly regarded prospect out of Jersey City, N.J., where he played primarily running back. He originally committed to the Vols and former head coach Phillip Fulmer but then switched to Notre Dame after Fulmer was fired. New coach

Lane Kiffin wooed him back just before National Signing Day.

After spending time at receiver, Oliver seems to have settled permanently in the secondary. He's also tried to catch coaches' eyes on special teams.

"I just told Coach Dooley to put me on anything," Oliver said. "I just want to play."

Despite his injury history, Oliver said he believes he's thrived this summer because of his recklessness and aggressiveness on defense. If he was going to make a mistake, he wanted to do it while playing fast.

"I just want to be a bulldog out there, a little pit bull," he said. "That's what I pride myself on...I feel like I'm faster and stronger. I just come out here and give it all I've got."

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

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Comments » 23

Ironcity writes:

He is a kid I want to root for. Hope he makes a positive impact this season.

BigOrangeFever76 (Inactive) writes:

"I just told Coach Dooley to put me on anything," Oliver said. "I just want to play."

Now THAT is the kind of attitude we need from the entire team!! Go Naz. Kick a littleazz!!

BolivrBob writes:

Would love to see him reach his potential this year

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Alright.

Snapshot writes:

Hope his attitude is infectious for the whole team!

keepitreal4vols writes:

If I remember correctly, he got busted for shoplifting the same week the Pilot hamburger robbery occured. I was one of those that screamed for him to be kicked off the team. Well, I sure am glad coaches don't read stupid message board posts. I'm really excited to see this kid play now.

BigOrangeRock writes:

I see somebody brought back the sharpies.

BluezVol writes:

Obstacles normally do two things in life a) defeat you and shadow you for the rest of your life b) create a resolve and over-comer spirit which also shadows you the rest of your life. It seems he chose the latter - well done Sir.

MakinBacon writes:

I love this guy's attitude.

Good luck, Naz, and GBO!!!

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

I had somewhat forgotten about Naz. He's a really talented guy who should contribute if healthy.

laraccoon writes:

hopefully we will have a decent pass rush this year , i think that would probably make our defensive backs look much better . i know it seemed like they got burnt alot last year but in all fairness they havent had much help from the D line .

Stooley_Dinks writes:

Well we aim to please. Naz it seems as if we have some room at tight end...

johnlg00 writes:

in response to laraccoon:

hopefully we will have a decent pass rush this year , i think that would probably make our defensive backs look much better . i know it seemed like they got burnt alot last year but in all fairness they havent had much help from the D line .

Exactly. Our DBs got burned so much last year because they had to chase receivers all over the field play after play. The QBs could take all day to survey the field, the receivers could go anywhere to get open, our DBs couldn't get off the field, and there weren't enough backups to give them a break. None of those things should happen anywhere nearly as often this year.

GreerVol22 writes:

karma has taken a big bite out of this boy's backside. Lets hope all the nonsense and injuries are behind him and he continues goes for broke.

voloffaith writes:

in response to GreerVol22:

karma has taken a big bite out of this boy's backside. Lets hope all the nonsense and injuries are behind him and he continues goes for broke.

Always looking for that good ole 'Buddhist' angle in football.....Karma ain't a player here....I know John (I am better than Jesus) Lennon said, " Instant Karma's gonna get you..." So all the accumulative effects of all his lives including the present have brought all this pain/suffering etc ?

Snatch the pearl grasshopper....

AHOUSE writes:

I wonder if anybody heard Bourque say anything like this when he was here before he quit.

GreerVol22 writes:

in response to voloffaith:

Always looking for that good ole 'Buddhist' angle in football.....Karma ain't a player here....I know John (I am better than Jesus) Lennon said, " Instant Karma's gonna get you..." So all the accumulative effects of all his lives including the present have brought all this pain/suffering etc ?

Snatch the pearl grasshopper....

must be a slow day at the office for you to respond to me on that one...eye for an eye...turn the other cheek and all that...

brokendownoldvol writes:

Good, someone who loves to hit.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I think we should work on winning the toss! Then work like heck to stay ahead. Or maybe play defense.

Ayres_Hall writes:

We need a few good special teams players. I would love to see us block a few punts this year. Yea, one or two in Athens would be a good thing.

voloffaith writes:

in response to GreerVol22:

must be a slow day at the office for you to respond to me on that one...eye for an eye...turn the other cheek and all that...

Nice round of jousting there Lord Fauntroy wouldn't ewe say? Sorry not a 'karma' guy...just a mild-mannered attempt at cutesy with that...oops there goes another one....

steamboatticket#484773 writes:

Oliver was a highly regarded athlete during his recruitment.

BreatheUT writes:

Good for Oliver. Seems many of the DBs have improved with the new staff.

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