Safety signees may play early

With Jason Allen moving to cornerback, safety looms as the most glaring weakness on Tennessee's football team for 2005. That's why the Vols spent a lot of time recruiting safeties during the past few months. And that's why head coach Phil Fulmer thinks his three safety signees could make immediate impact next fall.

Adam Myers-White (6-3, 190 pounds, Hamilton, Ohio), Demetrice Morley (6-0, 180, Miami, Fla.) and Antonio Wardlow (6-1, 185, Winston-Salem, N.C.) will get every opportunity to prove themselves in preseason camp.

''Those three we signed -- White, Morley and Wardlow -- are guys we obviously hope can come in really quickly,'' Fulmer said. ''We'll try to try to fix the (safety) problem in the spring as best we can. Those kind of athletes are going to help you at a lot of places. They'll help you in special teams and, depending on how quickly they learn, they'll have a great chance to help us at safety.''

Asked how difficult safety is for a freshman to pick up quickly enough to play immediately, Fulmer replied: ''If you go back (through previous UT seasons), you see Deon Grant starting as a freshman, Rashad Baker starting as a freshman. I'm not saying any of these freshmen is going to start as a freshman but they've got a heck of a chance.

''We've got some young men on campus (returnees) who need to step up and not allow that to happen. But odds are those guys (freshmen) will be in the mix rather quickly once they get here. We'll look at how we can incorporate them and where they are.''

Fulmer said his team got everything it needed and ALMOST everything it wanted. The lone exception?

''The one area we maybe would like to have done a little better -- signed one more guy -- was offensive tackle,'' he said.

That need would've been met except that Memphis native Michael Oher chose Ole Miss over the Vols. He was one of two high-profile in-state players who spurned UT scholarship offers. The other was Nashville wideout Patrick Turner, who picked Southern Cal. Otherwise, the Vols mopped up within the state boundaries, signing nine prospects -- most in Fulmer's 12 years as head man.

''Nine in-state guys is wonderful for us,'' he said. ''We'd love to do that every year if we could.''

All told, UT signed players from 11 states, plus Washington D.C. The signees included eight U.S. Army All-Americans and three Parade All-Americans.

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