Vol DBs are coming on

Take a look at what Vol defensive backs have done the past few weeks:

Game 7: Cornerback Jason Allen makes a clutch fourth-down pass deflection in the end zone to preserve Tennessee's five-overtime win at Alabama. He also blocks a field goal, records two pass breakups and finishes the outing with 12 tackles. Freshman safety Corey Campbell adds 11 stops and a pass breakup. Senior safety Gibril Wilson chips in 10 tackles.

Game 8: Wilson registers 14 stops against Duke, while Campbell records his second consecutive 11-tackle game.

Game 9: Allen registers 11 tackles against Miami and causes a fumble. Wilson chips in nine stops, a pass breakup and a clutch interception at the Vol 7-yard line. Cornerback Jabari Greer saves a sure touchdown with a quick recovery and a nifty deflection. Reserve safety Mark Jones hits Brock Berlin as he throws, causing the poor throw which Wilson intercepts.

Game 10: Wilson records his fifth double-digit tackle performance in six games, registering 11 stops (including three for minus yardage) vs. Mississippi State. He also intercepts a pass, breaks up two more and records a sack. Reserve safety O.J. Owens blocks a punt that gives UT an easy score.

Perhaps you're wondering: Why are Vol defensive backs making so many plays lately?

Secondary coach Larry Slade says it's all a matter of comfort and confidence. The No. 1 job for any secondary player is stopping the big play, something Slade calls ''an awesome responsibility.''

Some players are intimidated by the enormity of the task and become tentative. Or, as Slade puts it, ''When they have that mentality, they play like fenceposts and don't make a lot of plays.''

As a player grows more comfortable with his responsibilities and more confident in his abilities, however, he begins to relax. When this happens, he becomes more instinctive, more aggressive and more productive. And that's probably why Vol defensive backs are making far more plays lately than they were earlier in the season.

''We have to be fundamentally sound and we have to be aggressive, and I think that's what we're starting to see with our guys,'' Slade says. ''When we get an opportunity to go get the football or make a big hit, we're starting to do that.''

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