'It caught everybody off guard'

The fact Tennessee has moved two cornerbacks to bolster its shaky depth at wide receiver was no surprise. The fact neither of them is named Marsalis Teague was.

Two long-time cornerbacks — fifth-year senior Anthony Anderson and third-year sophomore Nyshier Oliver — practiced with the offense today, getting repetitions normally reserved for injured wideouts Zach Rogers and DeAnthony Arnett. Both Anderson and Oliver played receiver in high school but Marsalis Teague played the position in college.

Teague, in fact, spent the first year of his Vol career catching passes. The 5-10, 185-pound junior from Henry County High led all Tennessee players with six catches for 86 yards in the 2009 opener vs. Western Kentucky. He wound up starting five games as a true freshman that season and finished with 13 receptions for 147 yards. Switched to cornerback 18 months ago, he started eight games on defense for the 2010 Vols.

Despite his background as a receiver, Teague says he is not surprised that he wasn't moved to shore up the Vols' wideout depth.

"I didn't really expect them to move anybody, honestly," he said. "It kind of caught everybody off guard. Well, it caught us (defensive backs) off guard. I'm sure they (coaches) had a conversation with them (Anderson, Oliver)."

The fact Teague is staying put probably means he is in line for serious playing time in the secondary this fall - at one of the corner spots or possibly at nickel back.

Initially shocked by that Anderson and Oliver were changing sides, Teague became reflective as the news settled in. He eventually found himself empathizing with the two transplanted Vols.

"I was kind of like, 'I know that feeling' because I'm grounded in to where I'm at now," he said.

Teague recalls his 2010 position switch quite vividly, although he says he wasn't disappointed to be leaving offense for defense.

"I wouldn't really say I was disappointed," he said. "The timing of it kind of threw me off because it was right before (fall) camp and I had been working so hard at receiver the previous summer. It was kind of a loop for me right there but I just switched my mind frame to playing DB."

Basically, Teague believes the switch he made from wideout to cornerback was more challenging than the switch Anderson and Oliver are making from cornerback to wideout.

"I actually think it would be a little easier going from defense to offense - from corner to receiver," he said. "I believe the transition from receiver to corner is a little more difficult because now you're not in attack mode. As a receiver you're kind of attacking the guy. As a corner you go from running forward to running backward (backpedaling) and doing a lot of things in reverse."

Even with Anderson and Oliver leaving the ranks, Teague believes Tennessee's secondary depth is exceptional.

"We have a lot of people back there who have the capability of playing and contributing for us," he said. "It's a good feeling back there."

Although Anderson has played sparingly to date, Teague believes the Knoxville native will distinguish himself at his new position.

"Anthony's a great athlete," Teague said. "He has a lot of ability. He's a guy that's going to work hard, so I have full confidence in his ability to play wide receiver.

"Naz (Oliver) is another one of those guys. He's a good athlete, and I believe he has the ability to do the same thing."

Ultimately, Teague wishes his former secondary mates all the best on offense.

"I hope they can grasp the playbook," he said, "and kind of help out over there."

Anderson and Oliver already understand the passing game, having spent their college careers covering receivers. That should benefit them now that they will be playing receiver.

"Yeah, I think that's one of the hidden factors in that transition," Teague said. "They're knowing what to expect, knowing what defenses are trying to do and being able to attack them with their route-running. I believe that is a tremendous plus for them."

Marsalis Teague


Inside Tennessee Top Stories