Allen says DBs are OK

Most observers figure the secondary is the weakest area of Tennessee's football team this fall. Jason Allen is a notable exception.

Of course, Allen is the lone returning starter in the defensive backfield, so he may be too proud to classify it as a concern heading into Sunday's opener against UNLV.

''I don't feel any concern,'' he said. ''We have a lot of talent and a lot of potential in the secondary, so I don't feel any concern. If we go out there and take care of business, I don't feel we have any concerns.''

Still, this will be a very inexperienced group. Last year's starting secondary featured three seniors (Gibril Wilson, Rashad Baker, Jabari Greer) and a sophomore (Allen). By comparision, this year's No. 1 backfield consists of a redshirt freshman (Roshaun Fellows), a sophomore (Corey Campbell), a junior (Allen) and a senior who has never started a game (Brandon Johnson). In addition, the top reserves are sophomores Jonathan Wade and Jarod Parrish, true freshmen Jonathan Hefney, Inky Johnson and Ellix Wilson, plus redshirt freshman Antonio Gaines.

Doesn't experience count for something?

''Experience has a whole lot to do with it,'' Allen conceded. ''But Corey Campbell had two picks last year; Brandon Johnson made big plays against Florida; Roshaun Fellows made big plays in the spring.''

One factor which could help Tennessee's youthful secondary is the fact it goes against an exceptional group of receivers in practice on a regular basis.

''I feel like we have some of the best receivers in the country, and we go against those guys each and every day,'' Allen said. ''I feel like we're prepared to go against anyone.''

Although he has heard the whispers from media and fans regarding the shortcomings of this year's secondary, Allen expects to quiet the critics once the season begins.

''We're just going to go out there and play,'' he said. ''We're prepared right now. If we do what we're coached to do, we'll be OK.''

In a matter of months, Allen has gone from being the baby of the secondary to the old man of the unit. He admits that the transition has been pretty remarkable.

''Last year I was the younger brother of the group,'' he said. ''This year I'm the OLDER brother of the group. There's a leadership role I'm willing to take on -- on the field and off the field also.''

Allen may have to make another transition this fall. Given the glaring lack of depth at safety, he might play some at that position, as well as corner. He seems to expect as much.

''I'm ready to play any position,'' he said. ''I just want to help us win ballgames, whether I'm at corner, safety, linebacker, defensive end or defensive tackle.''

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