Safety in numbers?

A wise man once said ''There's safety in numbers.'' This spring the Tennessee Vols are testing a similar idea: ''There's numbers at safety.''

The spring depth chart lists Corey Campbell, Jarod Parrish and Ellix Wilson as free safety candidates, with Antwan Stewart, Sinclair Cannon and Ben Greene designated strong safety contenders. But that's just the beginning.

Roshaun Fellows and Jonathan Hefney -- two guys who earned Freshman All-America honors at cornerback last fall -- spent the first week of spring ball working at safety. More corners will be tried at safety once spring break ends and drills resume next week.

Although he conceded that using Fellows and Hefney at safety gives Tennessee ''a very athletic group'' in the secondary, defensive coordinator John Chavis isn't planning on keeping both of them there on a long-range basis.

''Our plan was to go with these two the first five days,'' Chavis said recently. ''After the first five days, we're planning on moving one of those guys back to corner, get somebody else in there and give them a look at safety, then do the same thing again after Day 10.''

Hefney probably has played his last snap at safety. At 5-10 and 174 pounds, he's awfully small to take the physical pounding that goes with the position. Fellows (6-0, 184) is a tad bigger but still smaller than most SEC safeties.

''I'm not questioning their toughness or anything but they've not been in positions where they have to tackle as much as our safeties have to tackle,'' Chavis said. ''That's a big question we need to answer. But I certainly like the way they look from an athletic standpoint.

So does head coach Phillip Fulmer.

''We're still trying to find those starters at safety,'' he said. ''But the first few days I thought Fellows and Hefney did a really good job of trying to be where they were supposed to be and being physical.''

Assuming Hefney returns to cornerback, he'll pair with 2004 SEC tackles leader Jason Allen to give the Vols a nice 1-2 punch at that position.

''Obviously, Jason Allen is our anchor,'' Fulmer said. ''But we need depth at that position (corner) to allow us to be the kind of defense we want to be.''

The need for depth at corner is small, however, compared to the glaring need at safety.

''At safety, we're not there (in terms of depth),'' Fulmer said. ''It's probably not going to happen until the freshmen report.''

Two ballyhooed safety prospects -- freshmen Demetrice Morley and Adam Myers-White -- will report for duty in August. But Chavis isn't as patient as Fulmer. He wants to clarify the depth situation right now.

''We know we've got some problems in the secondary but I'm not going to sit here and wait until somebody gets here and answer those questions in the fall,'' the coordinator said. ''We're going to do everything we can to be as far along as we can.

''I know we had a good recruiting class. There's some people in there that may help us but if you're planning on winning championships, you're not going to win championships with freshmen.''


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