Tennessee's Jaron Toney expected to push for playing time in secondary

Former walk-on running back Jaron Toney is pushing to play a regular role on defense.

The graduate of Alcoa High School, now on scholarship and playing cornerback, could push past Eric Gordon as the "star" nickelback, which is used so frequently by Tennessee that it might as well be considered a starting position.

Defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri said Toney first caught his eye on special teams.

"I usually look at things really simple: When a young man goes out and starts making plays on special teams and starts getting noticed, then he's ready to get in there in the fire on first and second and third down," Sunseri said. "The kid has made some plays, he has done a good job and he will have an opportunity to get out there and show what he can do."

Cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley stopped short of saying that Toney had won the job outright, but said the junior had done "everything we've asked of him."

"It's nothing that Eric's done wrong," Ansley said. "We're just trying to create competition at that position. We're going to play the guy that has the best week of practice. They've got one more day to compete and then we'll make a decision on Friday."***Freshman safety LaDarrell McNeil has followed up the best game of his young career against Georgia with a solid week of practices, Sunseri said.

McNeil is expected to start or at least play significant snaps in place of Brent Brewer on Saturday at Mississippi State.

"I'm really excited about LaDarrell. He's done a great job this past week," Sunseri said. "That young man is flying around making plays and he is going to be a heck of a player at the University of Tennessee.

"This kid is extremely quick, extremely fast and has football instincts. When you have those type of intangibles, you are going to play for a long time, whether it is here or the next level."

***

Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said he'd like to shrink Mississippi State's two lanky cornerbacks. Darius Slay is 6-foot-1, and Johnthan Banks is 6-2.

"I wish they were 5-4 and 5-5," Chaney said. "They're opportunistic, have great instincts and they see what is happening in front of them because they keep the play in front of them a lot. They play the ball in the air exceptionally well, they have good ball skills, and they are everything you are looking for in a large corner."

***

Mississippi State's 5-0 record has invited skepticism because the victories have come against two of the weakest SEC teams (Auburn and Kentucky), a Championship Subdivision school (Jackson State) and two lower-tier Bowl Subdivision schools (Troy and South Alabama).

The Bulldogs' worst game of the season likely was Sept. 15 at Troy. MSU allowed 572 yards of total offense but escaped with a 30-24 win.

How did Troy do it, a reporter asked Chaney, and could Tennessee do the same?

"Troy lined up a lot in open formations, played at a rapid pace, handed it off, threw the ball in the perimeter and did a lot of nice things," Chaney said. "That's who they are, and they played a good ballgame that day. We do similar things, but we have a more physical game lining it up with the fullback and tight end."

Mississippi State has recovered since the close call against Troy. The defense surrendered only 224 yards last week at Kentucky.

***

Tennessee is relatively healthy after a two-week break, but linebacker Curt Maggitt's lingering turf toe remains a concern. Maggitt was held out of practice last week and appeared to run gingerly at times this week.

UT coach Derek Dooley has said that Maggitt's progress has been hampered by both the injury and the missed practice time caused by the injury.

Sunseri said Wednesday that Maggitt "is ready to go."

"Managing him has been tough. Young kids playing in this conference is tough," Sunseri said. "You know the physicality in this league. The bottom line is that I think he's better. He's more rested and his toe is feeling better, so things are good."

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

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Comments » 20

OrangePsyched writes:

Glad to see McNeil get his chance. Can someone in the know update me on the status of Christian Harris. Is he available this week? When we win this week it will bode well for the rest of the season.

Bigger_Al writes:

In the Georgia game, it looked to me like Toney could have blocked that last punt with 20 seconds left if he had laid out, rather than trying to avoid a roughing call. Did anyone else notice that?

Olddogsrule writes:

We can hope for a good win. Miss. St. hasn't played against anything like the natural football skills and size the Vols have. Question is will the defensive backs learn from their coaching this week, recognize the offensive sets, and play their positions instead of leaving receivers uncovered and running lanes wide open? If they've finally got it down they will hold the Bulldogs to two or thee TD's while the offense lights up the scoreboard. I believe the Vols run and pass against this Miss. St. defense. Yeah, they got two tall DB's but Hunter and Patterson both are due for a night where they both show that they really are elite SEC receivers. Brey will have a lot of other targets out of the backfield with one or two catches .each. The rushing game has shown in can run it straight down the field. Run opens up pass, pass opens up run. If The Mountain McCuller and the rest of the big guys get it done, I actually believe it could get ugly. These Vols are a better team and better coached than the trolls are willing to admit. Vol fans will know for whom the cowbells toll!

Classof72 writes:

It's a good sign that coaches are trying to improve the speed in the secondary. It's overdue, but talent is limited. Now, if they can just mix in more zone....

nocleats writes:

Speaks, no SCREAMS, volumes as to the talent level in the secondary.. RECRUIT RECRUIT RECRUIT< heck Recruit some more!

jobrando#216494 writes:

Just dont have the depth yet....2 more classes for it to happen

gwavescVOL writes:

Feel like Gordon does miss on assignment football occasionally but also has made some real plays this year, I'll be kind of suprised until Toney starts making plays

sameolvolalum writes:

in response to Olddogsrule:

We can hope for a good win. Miss. St. hasn't played against anything like the natural football skills and size the Vols have. Question is will the defensive backs learn from their coaching this week, recognize the offensive sets, and play their positions instead of leaving receivers uncovered and running lanes wide open? If they've finally got it down they will hold the Bulldogs to two or thee TD's while the offense lights up the scoreboard. I believe the Vols run and pass against this Miss. St. defense. Yeah, they got two tall DB's but Hunter and Patterson both are due for a night where they both show that they really are elite SEC receivers. Brey will have a lot of other targets out of the backfield with one or two catches .each. The rushing game has shown in can run it straight down the field. Run opens up pass, pass opens up run. If The Mountain McCuller and the rest of the big guys get it done, I actually believe it could get ugly. These Vols are a better team and better coached than the trolls are willing to admit. Vol fans will know for whom the cowbells toll!

Arf! Arf! I mean; 'gotta agree.

bcm4ut writes:

Gordon has made big plays since his Frosh year. He gives up a few, but he really has a nose for the football.

bcm4ut writes:

Do any of you remember former Vol Anthony Sessions? Wore #22 if i remember correctly. Don't know why I thought of him, I just remember him for being a HUGE hitter. Just wondering what ever happened to that guy.

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:

in response to Bigger_Al:

In the Georgia game, it looked to me like Toney could have blocked that last punt with 20 seconds left if he had laid out, rather than trying to avoid a roughing call. Did anyone else notice that?

Yes I did and he still got called for running into kicker.

Stooley_Dinks writes:

I liked Jaron running last year, but it would be embarrassing to play a walk-on at RB.

So our coach wants to play a walk-on out of position. Just a knee-slapping good time for all.

bigdog45 writes:

Will you please teach them to turn there heads around and look for ball in air be a lot more turn overs and strip the ball thanks

GreeneVol writes:

Sounds like the defense will have to be UP for Troy as well - watch out for that one!

Stooley_Dinks: at this point, we shouldn't care if it is a walk-on RB that they are trying to bring over to the other side of the ball - they are doing anything they can to try to make it work better. No, the overall talent level on this team is obviously not there yet, but Toney's athleticism is evidently worth a shot. Doing nothing would be much worse.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to Olddogsrule:

We can hope for a good win. Miss. St. hasn't played against anything like the natural football skills and size the Vols have. Question is will the defensive backs learn from their coaching this week, recognize the offensive sets, and play their positions instead of leaving receivers uncovered and running lanes wide open? If they've finally got it down they will hold the Bulldogs to two or thee TD's while the offense lights up the scoreboard. I believe the Vols run and pass against this Miss. St. defense. Yeah, they got two tall DB's but Hunter and Patterson both are due for a night where they both show that they really are elite SEC receivers. Brey will have a lot of other targets out of the backfield with one or two catches .each. The rushing game has shown in can run it straight down the field. Run opens up pass, pass opens up run. If The Mountain McCuller and the rest of the big guys get it done, I actually believe it could get ugly. These Vols are a better team and better coached than the trolls are willing to admit. Vol fans will know for whom the cowbells toll!

Hunter and CP are only as good as Bray allows..If Bray Makes the right throw to CP it won't matter who's covering him..Iam smelling a huge game from CP this week..Chaney's just got to put him in the right position

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to gwavescVOL:

Feel like Gordon does miss on assignment football occasionally but also has made some real plays this year, I'll be kind of suprised until Toney starts making plays

I agree..I'll believe it when I see it..Gordon's been pretty solid and is good for at least 5 tackles per game..McNeill over Wagner is no shocker.He was a brutal hitter in HS and always around the ball...Really good DB's get half their pass break ups with big hits after the catch and thats not gonna happen with Wagner

VolGrad writes:

in response to Stooley_Dinks:

I liked Jaron running last year, but it would be embarrassing to play a walk-on at RB.

So our coach wants to play a walk-on out of position. Just a knee-slapping good time for all.

I remember I had a burr in my saddle once. Made a world of difference once I removed it.

Go Vols! Beat the dawgs!!!

CoverOrange writes:

in response to AlexAndersonAAradio:

Yes I did and he still got called for running into kicker.

Due to a Oscar winning performance by the Georgia punter.

SCVFL writes:

DBs definitely need the help. I don't care if it is the band director, as long as they get into position, protect their lanes, and keep the plays in front of them. Like someone said earlier they can not depend on pure athleticism. The entire D needs to learn to protect their zones. Everyone from the DL rushing at bad angles, to LB lining up incorrectly, to DB losing contact. Hopefully, the bye week helped with getting settled and every practice and every game the D should get a little more comfortable which will definetly help with the speed.
Lots of freshman start for teams, especially on D.

GO BIG RNG...VFL

foodexpert writes:

We can beat them if we all play as a unit and the defense can stop them from gashing us.
But you all need to go out and get the Original Brother Jacks Pig Burgers at Food City I cant wait to fire up the grill and tailgate! GO VOLS!!!

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