Spring Breakdown: Safeties

InsideTennessee brings you a 10-part series of position battles heading into spring practice. Be sure to come back to InsideTennessee for all your Volunteer athletics information.

With Tennessee spring football practice just two days away, InsideTennessee continues its spring preview with the safety position and like wide receiver, there just isn't much there.

New Volunteer safeties coach Josh Conklin is going to have his work cut out for him from Day 1 of spring drills, but he will get some serious one-on-one tutoring opportunities with just a handful of players.

When talking safeties the conversation has to start with true sophomore Brian Randolph. The 6-foot, 190-pounder established himself early in 2011 and notched eight starts in 12 games by season's end.

No. 37 became one of the cornerstones of the Tennessee defense, racking up 55 tackles, one forced fumble and one tackle for loss. His success came against some of the top teams in the country. Randolph had 23 tackles in a three-game span against No. 1 LSU, No. 2 Alabama and No. 14 South Carolina.

Tennessee safety Brent Brewer
Behind Randolph is junior and former professional baseball player Brent Brewer. Brewer started 14 games in a row, including eight starts in 2011, before suffering a season-ending tear of his ACL against South Carolina back on Oct. 29.

Brewer collected 48 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble. Given the time of the injury fans can expect Brewer to be extremely limited this spring.

One of the most productive defensive backs has been redshirt senior Prentiss Waggner, who was forced to move from cornerback to safety due to injuries and production.

Waggner started 25 games in a row, including all 12 last season and all 13 games as a redshirt sophomore. Last year he had 48 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble.

However, the fact remains that Waggner's true position is on the edge at the corner, but without signee help coming until the fall, he might one again be stuck wondering in the back end.

The most forgotten man at the safety spot has to be 6-foot, 214-pounder Rod Wilks. The redshirt senior has seen action mostly limited to special teams and has struggled to find a home shifting between wide receiver and defensive back. With depth as a clear issue in 2011 it could be the Smyrna, Tenn., native's time to emerge as a threat in the Vols defensive backfield.

Then there is junior college transfer Byron Moore, who was largely unheard of during his first season on Rocky Top after being highly touted as four-star junior college prospect by Scout.com out of Los Angeles Harbor Community College.

Moore spent part of the 2011 season on special teams before he saw action at the nickel position and had six tackles and a pass defended. Given the depth issues at safety, look for Moore to get a look at the free safety position with Eric Gordon working at the nickel.

Byron Moore (3)

Chris Price is a staff writer for InsideTennessee.com. He was previously an intern for the site for two years before graduating from the University of Tennessee. He joined the InsideTennessee team in 2009.

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