Tennessee secondary still primary request

Coleman says there's progress

When a reporter hinted at praise for Tennessee’s defensive backfield last week, defensive coordinator John Jancek shrugged.

The Vols, he said, were helped quite a bit by dropped passes.

It’s true that an inexperienced receiving corps further depleted by injuries has sometimes made UT’s defense appear better than it would otherwise look. Breaking up passes intended for walk-on receivers isn’t quite the same as guarding Malcolm Mitchell or Jarvis Landry.

But there are glimmers of hope, and junior cornerback Justin Coleman offered one of them in Saturday’s scrimmage when he put his claws on a pass in the back of the end zone and hauled in a one-handed interception.

“It’s one of the best plays I’ve seen in a long time,” said first-year UT coach Butch Jones.

A third-year junior who already has 24 games and 13 starts, Coleman offers one of the best hopes that Tennessee’s secondary will be better than it was a year ago.

“It’s a level of consistency,” Jones said. “It’s making the routine plays. That’s what being a great football player is about. It’s easy to be average, it’s hard to be good and it’s harder to be great.”

After 2012, the Vols’ secondary might be willing to settle for average, but Coleman wants more than that. He even critiqued his attention-grabbing interception.

“Everyone didn’t see that I messed up,” he said. “I did everything wrong at the beginning. I tried to develop a habit (of finishing plays) and at the end of that play, I just tried to finish and I came up with a big play. My mindset was just to deflect the pass, but I felt it stick to my glove and I just came down with it.”

Coleman has one of the firmest grips on the four starting spots up for grabs in UT’s secondary. (A fifth job — the nickelback position — is also open after veteran Eric Gordon left the team due to personal issues. Jaron Toney has done much of the work at nickel this spring).

Sophomore Daniel Gray and junior college transfer Riyahd Jones are also working at corner. At safety, veterans Brian Randolph and Byron Moore and sophomore LaDarrell McNeil will get most of the snaps.

A cast of reserves — veterans Geraldo Orta and Naz Oliver and youngsters Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Lemond Johnson and Tino Thomas — haven’t been able to push into first-team contention. (In the case of Reeves-Maybin and Thomas, they’ve missed the spring due to injury).

That means that, except for Riyahd Jones, the Vols could be embarking on the 2013 season with much the same personnel they used a year ago.

What makes them think that this season will be any different?

Coleman understands the skeptics, but says the improvement this spring has been real.

“I’ve definitely seen a lot of progress,” he said. “Everybody is giving a lot of effort, and everyone wants to play. I’ve seen 10 times more effort. Everyone wants to get better.”

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

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Comments » 9

6972 writes:

The defensive secondary is looking down the barrel of a double barrel shotgun, otherwise known as McCarron and Murray. Get ready guys. It's gonna get real again. GBO

nocleats writes:

The better the DLine, the better the secondary.!

tovolny writes:

Byron Moore never understood his position last year. He seemed to line up at the wrong place and then do the wrong thing on almost every play last year. Now, he appears to actually know how to make tackles and what to do when defending the red zone. This tells me he may be getting coached better. Daniel Hood looks to be playing defense as opposed to taking up space. I wish these guys well as I understand they are fine and fun individuals. We are short now on running backs. But, you know, Channing Fugate used to have running skills in high school. Maybe we should think about moving him back on the other side of the line and see what he can do as an occasional runner from the fullback spot. Fugate has been under-used, in my opinion. He is not a play maker type, but he can play. We have every body type possible, I say find a couple that looks like, Jim Brown, Herschel Walker, or Eddy George and coach them up...if only it could be that easy. I'll back off now and turn the team back over to Butch Jones.

SouthPaVol writes:

in response to tovolny:

Byron Moore never understood his position last year. He seemed to line up at the wrong place and then do the wrong thing on almost every play last year. Now, he appears to actually know how to make tackles and what to do when defending the red zone. This tells me he may be getting coached better. Daniel Hood looks to be playing defense as opposed to taking up space. I wish these guys well as I understand they are fine and fun individuals. We are short now on running backs. But, you know, Channing Fugate used to have running skills in high school. Maybe we should think about moving him back on the other side of the line and see what he can do as an occasional runner from the fullback spot. Fugate has been under-used, in my opinion. He is not a play maker type, but he can play. We have every body type possible, I say find a couple that looks like, Jim Brown, Herschel Walker, or Eddy George and coach them up...if only it could be that easy. I'll back off now and turn the team back over to Butch Jones.

Channing Fugate at running back would be music to my ears. The boy was a hoss in high school. Not sure about his LB skills, but he had good vision and kept hold of the ball.

The former head guy (can hardly say Dooley and coach in the same sentence) never believed in Fugate; guess he was looking for a different body type or something?

Jabo Lee may be the knight in armor come the summer. He ran well out of NC and could challenge for the starting roll, if he qualifies academically.

Shake_Bake writes:

in response to nocleats:

The better the DLine, the better the secondary.!

So true!!! And...it is amazing how many fans don't realize that fact. The Dline can take a lot of pressure off the secondary...IF they can put pressure on the QB. Easier said than done.

LibertyVolance writes:

in response to SouthPaVol:

Channing Fugate at running back would be music to my ears. The boy was a hoss in high school. Not sure about his LB skills, but he had good vision and kept hold of the ball.

The former head guy (can hardly say Dooley and coach in the same sentence) never believed in Fugate; guess he was looking for a different body type or something?

Jabo Lee may be the knight in armor come the summer. He ran well out of NC and could challenge for the starting roll, if he qualifies academically.

You have something there with Fugate. We need a bruising RB with size and this guy has it. I would like to see the coaches turn on the same light you have.

philgreen5#410561 writes:

in response to tovolny:

Byron Moore never understood his position last year. He seemed to line up at the wrong place and then do the wrong thing on almost every play last year. Now, he appears to actually know how to make tackles and what to do when defending the red zone. This tells me he may be getting coached better. Daniel Hood looks to be playing defense as opposed to taking up space. I wish these guys well as I understand they are fine and fun individuals. We are short now on running backs. But, you know, Channing Fugate used to have running skills in high school. Maybe we should think about moving him back on the other side of the line and see what he can do as an occasional runner from the fullback spot. Fugate has been under-used, in my opinion. He is not a play maker type, but he can play. We have every body type possible, I say find a couple that looks like, Jim Brown, Herschel Walker, or Eddy George and coach them up...if only it could be that easy. I'll back off now and turn the team back over to Butch Jones.

I agree, give Fugate a shot in the backfield, we need someone to pound the rock 3-4 yards a carry and extend drives. There is a fullback from Stanford and now the Vikings named Gerhart who is about the same size and does a pretty good job.

UTvols33 writes:

in response to tovolny:

Byron Moore never understood his position last year. He seemed to line up at the wrong place and then do the wrong thing on almost every play last year. Now, he appears to actually know how to make tackles and what to do when defending the red zone. This tells me he may be getting coached better. Daniel Hood looks to be playing defense as opposed to taking up space. I wish these guys well as I understand they are fine and fun individuals. We are short now on running backs. But, you know, Channing Fugate used to have running skills in high school. Maybe we should think about moving him back on the other side of the line and see what he can do as an occasional runner from the fullback spot. Fugate has been under-used, in my opinion. He is not a play maker type, but he can play. We have every body type possible, I say find a couple that looks like, Jim Brown, Herschel Walker, or Eddy George and coach them up...if only it could be that easy. I'll back off now and turn the team back over to Butch Jones.

That's not a bad idea. A big fullback to punnish the d-line every once and a while would be awesome, like Mike Alstott. I wonder if this fast paced spread attack will even use a fullback, though.

VoL_4_Life_1983 writes:

in response to 6972:

The defensive secondary is looking down the barrel of a double barrel shotgun, otherwise known as McCarron and Murray. Get ready guys. It's gonna get real again. GBO

The only thing that hurt out D last year was an idiot named sunseri that for dumb reason wanted to take a team 4-3 athletes that played 4-3 the past two years and were recruited for a 4-3 & make play a 3-4 that hasnt been ran by a vols team for a long time..if he would have been smart and kept the 4-3 our line would have shined and our linebackers eould have dominated and our dbacks would have been playing the d they knew..scoring 45 pts a game and a 4-3 last year and no sunseri and we would have had a totally diff season..jones knows what he has and he knows what defense he has...a bowl game is a start and a full.season of recruiting and recruits like the 3 5stars we bout stole in a months time will be playing home games in front of 110000+ once again..#vol4life

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