He Ain't Hefney, He's Our Cover

Although it barely made a mention as a news item, the fact Jonathan Hefney is enrolled at UT after spending a year in prep school could be a critical development in the Vols' football fortunes this fall.

A superb athlete with the type of innate coverage skills that can't be taught, Hefney adds immediate depth to a position depleted by injury and graduation, and there's good reason to believe he could contend for a starting role at one of the corners.

Originally signed out of Rock Hill High School in South Carolina in 2003, Hefney was in line for return duties at UT until his detour to Hargrave Academy. He'll be given a long look as a return specialist this fall where he demonstrated explosive capability in high school, returning two kickoffs and a punt for touchdowns for Rock Hill's 15-0 state title team in 2002.

Hefney's 56 starts at Rock Hill broke a school record held by current Pittsburgh Steeler defensive back Chris Hope, a sure indication he has the speed, toughness and quick hips needed in man coverage. Hefney intercepted 16 passes the last three years and recorded a combined 161 tackles as a junior and senior — an unusually high number of stops by a cornerback.

Although playing true freshmen isn't preferable for any team competing in the SEC, corner is one position that a rookie can contribute in Tennessee's lock-down scheme that essentially leaves corners in press coverage without a lot of reads to make.

Additionally, there's an established history of first-year players making major contributions at the corner in Tennessee's man package. Jabari Greer was a four-year starter for the Vols at corner as were DeRon Jenkins and Terry Fair. Dwayne Goodrich and Jeremy Lincoln made at early splash at the corner as did Terry McDaniel once he was moved from wide receiver.

With Antwan Stewart recovering from knee surgery and no established corner other than Jason Allen on hand, Hefney figures to compete with Roshaun Fellows and Jonathan Wade for playing time with two, or all three, of those players factoring into the nickel and dime packages.

The additional depth Hefney brings may allow Tennessee to move Allen to strong safety, where he played some this spring and appeared to be the Vols best option. The extra year of seasoning Hefney received at the prep school level also allows him to enter the picture bigger, stronger and more experienced than most true freshmen. He turned 19 last February and has already played some 66 games, or the equivalence of six 11-game seasons.

All in all, Hefney brings a lot to Tennessee's table.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories