Prentiss is no apprentice

He played cornerback in high school, so filling that position for Tennessee in Saturday's game at South Carolina was nothing he hadn't done before. Conversely, trying to cover a receiver like 6-4, 237-pound Gamecock superstar Alshon Jeffery was a whole new experience.

Vol sophomore Prentiss Waggner rose up to meet the challenge, however, helping limit Jeffery to three catches - four below his SEC-leading average.

"When I had him man-to-man, I think I played very physical with him at the line of scrimmage," said Waggner, a 6-2, 181-pounder from Clinton, La. "I think I challenged him very well. As a group I think we (defensive backs) did pretty well. Now we're looking forward to getting better every week."

Waggner started at left cornerback in place of Art Evans, who was burned repeatedly by Alabama's Julio Jones a week earlier. Knowing Jeffery is an elite pass-catcher, Waggner worked hard to prepare for the challenge.

"I studied a lot of film on Jeffery and all of their receivers," Waggner said. "I think I got a good read on his releases and stuff, and I think that's what enabled me to do a good job at the line of scrimmage on him."

Jeffery made his one big play of the day in the fourth quarter, turning a short curl route into a 70-yard touchdown play.

"We was in cover-2," Waggner recalled. "He ran a little sit-down route in the middle of the field. Some kind of way he just brought it back to the other side of the field. He just did a good job of making our guys miss and took it the distance."

After starting the Vols' first seven games at strong safety, Waggner switched to corner just last week. He says the adjustment went smoothly.

"It wasn't really a big transition because I played cornerback in high school," he recalled. "I joked with the coaches all summer because during 7-on-7s I played corner when guys couldn't make it, and I think I held my own. The coaches gave me a shot at the corner position. I think I did pretty well but I can get better."

Asked if he expects to start at cornerback again this weekend at Memphis, Waggner shrugged.

"That's up to the coaches," he said. "I think I had a pretty good game. I've got to focus on little things - like my angles at the cornerback position, attacking blocks and keeping everything outside-in, instead of inside-out."

Tennessee appeared to be on the ropes when South Carolina parlayed two turnovers into a pair of touchdowns and a 24-10 third-quarter lead. The Vol defense stopped the Cocks on their next two possessions, however, enabling the Big Orange to claw its way back into the game.

"We talk about it all the time: When the defense is going bad the offense has got to overcome adversity and when the offense is going bad the defense has got to overcome adversity," Waggner said. "That's something we work on every day in practice. I think we did a good job of getting off the field. We've just got to keep getting better and finish strong."

Vol defenders appeared to get a lift when freshman Tyler Bray led a drive that closed Carolina's lead to 24-17. Waggner believes that's exactly what happened.

"I think that gave us a big lift," he said. "I think the momentum changed right after the offense scored. Tyler Bray came in and did a magnificent job with the quarterback position. He gave us momentum."

And Prentiss Waggner gave the Vols steady play at cornerback - something that could help tremendously in the weeks to come.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories