Vols are sensational at safety

If Tennessee's football team were as strong everywhere else as it is at safety, the Vols might be favored to win the national title.

Head coach Phillip Fulmer said this spring that seniors Rashad Baker and Gibril Wilson are ''as good a pair of safeties as you'll find in the SEC ... maybe in college football.''

Baker is sidelined this spring but he'll be a fourth-year starter at free safety this fall. Wilson earned the starting job at strong safety midway through last season and proved himself to be a big hitter in the Fred White mold.

Baker expects great things from himself and his secondary partner. In fact, he expects perfection.

''At times you are going to make mistakes, but that is one of the things me and him are going to have to eliminate,'' Baker said. ''We are going to be the leaders back there. We can't allow easy touchdowns. We are not going to shut every opponent out, but that is our goal coming in. Mainly, we just need to minimize the mistakes.''

And maximize their knowledge -- of UT's schemes and opponents' tendencies.

''One of the things (must work on) is knowledge of the game -- knowing our opponents and knowing what they want to do,'' Baker said. ''That will make us that much better in the secondary. Also, we need work on just knowing our fundamentals. We need to gel together -- not only as a secondary, but as a team also.''

UT's safety corps also features sophomore Shannon Benton, junior O.J. Owens and sophomore Chris Heath. Senior Mark Jones, who is working mostly at receiver this spring, also figures in the safety mix.

Whereas Baker and Wilson give UT tremendous experience at safety, the Vols are terribly young at cornerback. With Jabari Greer and Robert Boulware running track this spring, UT has just two scholarship cornerbacks -- sophomore Jason Allen and redshirt freshman Antwan Stewart. Baker vows to do everything he can to help this youthful duo get ready for the 2003 season.

''I feel it is my role to push those guys -- not only on the field, but in the film room as well,'' Baker said. ''Coaches have already started in on them. One thing is, they have to push themselves to get better. Not many people get the opportunity to start at a university like Tennessee, so that is something I think they realize.''

Inside Tennessee Top Stories