Allen is player/coach

Because he's recovering from recent shoulder surgery, Vol defensive back Jason Allen is unable to practice this spring. So what does he do during the workouts?

''Coach,'' he said.

That's a good idea. As a rising senior and team captain, Allen is Tennessee's most knowledgeable and proven defensive back. There are many valuable lessons he can share with youthful DBs such as Jonathan Hefney, Roshaun Fellows, Antonio Gaines, Inky Johnson and Sinclair Cannon.

''There's a bunch of guys and only one Coach Slade out there,'' Allen said, referring to secondary coach Larry Slade. ''I feel like I can help him out. When I see something a guy can do better, I try to coach him up.''

Fellows and Hefney are learning to play safety, as well as cornerback, this spring. Allen learned the same lesson a year ago, so he's been offering his youthful mates some advice on the subject.

''I tell them, 'Just take the challenge that you've got make plays, regardless of where you are,' '' he said. ''At first I was a little down about it (the move from corner to safety). But now I know I'm going to put myself in position to get to the ball and make plays.''

So, how does he think Hefney and Fellows might handle the safety positions?

''We'll see,'' he said. ''I feel like both of those guys are capable of getting the job done. I believe corner is more technique than mental. Safety is more mental. You obviously have technique at safety but safety is one of the hardest positions to play on defense. You have to have physical ability and mental ability, as well.''

Allen is enjoying the teaching aspect of the game so much he might even consider doing some coaching someday.

''Maybe,'' he said. ''It's special working with kids in the Boys and Girls Club, and I enjoy being around children. But sometimes it's hard to teach them the right thing to do.''

Allen had a brilliant junior year last fall, leading the SEC in tackles with 118. He also registered three tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions and seven pass breakups. He pondered a jump to the NFL but chose to come back for his senior season at UT. Could the rosy outlook for the 2005 Vols have been a factor?

''That was one of the reasons,'' he said. ''It may not have been the key reason but it was one of the reasons I came back.''

Another reason was the opportunity to play cornerback again. He played there as a freshman and sophomore before filling in at safety in 2004. Now he's looking forward to playing corner again ... once his health permits it.

''I've just got to get back in the groove of things, get my shoulder right,'' he said.

Although he isn't practicing this spring, Allen figures his rehabilitation is going well.

''I feel like I'm about three weeks ahead of schedule,'' he said. ''I'm pushing myself in the rehab room, just like I would on the field.''

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