'The Natural'

Only one true freshman saw action in Tennessee's opener vs. Alabama-Birmingham last weekend but he made quite an impression.

Rookie safety Demetrice Morley played roughly two dozen snaps, recording a tackle and a crucial fourth-quarter pass deflection. With 3:37 remaining and the Vols clinging to a 17-10 lead, the 6-0, 180-pounder tipped away a potential game-tying touchdown pass at the goal line.

Making Morley's performance all the more impressive was the fact he was playing hurt.

"I thought Demetrice did very well for the first time," head coach Phillip Fulmer noted. "He hurt his ankle on the second play he was in there but he fought through that, showed some toughness. Demetrice is going to be a really good football player."

Secondary coach Larry Slade thinks so, too, although he emphasizes that Morley is still early in his development.

"He's a natural," the Vol aide said. "It's really coming quite easy to him but he's still learning. The better his understanding is, the more he can just go play."

After reviewing the UAB film, Slade was pleased with Morley's college debut.

"He's a freshman, but I thought he acquitted himself quite well," the secondary coach said. "He's still learning to get aligned and some of that stuff but the more experience he gets, the more aggressive he's going to be. He's still in a learning process but he did well. I was glad to get him out there."

Although Morley is behind the other safeties mentally, he's ahead of them physically. The guy has the tools to be a star.

"Physically, he's outstanding," Slade said. "He's a playmaker who's going to make a lot of plays."

After starring as a cornerback at Miami's Killian High School, Morley is learning to play strong safety at UT. Asked if Morley's development might be a little quicker if he weren't adapting to a new position, Slade smiled.

"Corey Campbell played safety in high school, almost the same scheme that we play," the Vol aide replied. "But the speed of the game and the adjustments – those are different – and that takes some time."


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