Corey's a veteran now

Tennessee's safety corps last fall consisted of three old dogs (seniors Gibril Wilson, Rashad Baker and Mark Jones) and one young pup (freshman Corey Campbell).

Now that Wilson, Baker and Jones are gone, Campbell suddenly finds himself the most experienced safety on the Vol roster heading into the 2004 season. It's a sobering thought.

''I don't feel all that experienced; I feel like I'm still learning new things each and every day,'' he said. ''I'm just hoping to step up and keep my job.''

Campbell started three late-season games at safety last fall while Baker was slowed by injuries. The only other Vol defensive back with starting experience is Jason Allen, who started the final eight games at cornerback. Allen's value to the unproven 2004 secondary is beyond measure.

''It helps a lot having Jason back,'' Campbell said. ''He's a real good player and I look up to him. I feel like I'm not alone (as a veteran) back there.''

Minus Wilson, Baker and corner Jabari Greer, Tennessee's secondary will have three new starters this fall. In spite of this, Campbell believes the defensive backfield will be solid.

''We lost some good players, and it's going to be hard to replace them,'' he said. ''But we (returnees) worked really hard during the summer on our strength and intelligence, and I feel we came a long way. We want to come out more aggressive this fall and have a big year.''

Although Campbell acquitted himself well as a late-season fill-in last fall, he says he's a far better player now than he was then.

''I feel like I've gotten a lot stronger, faster and quicker,'' he said. ''I think I'll have a better year than I had last year.''

Because the 2004 secondary will be youthful and inexperienced, teamwork will be even more crucial than usual.

''We need to communicate with each other and we need to bond, so we know we can depend on each other,'' Campbell said. ''Once we get all of that down pat, I really think we'll be good.''

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