Wade ready to shine?

Probably no player on Tennessee's football team has more untapped potential than junior cornerback Jonathan Wade. Eighteen months ago, Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis said Wade had the skills to be an All-American.

Perhaps missing spring practice to run track has slowed his development. Perhaps the adjustment from wide receiver to cornerback (his high school position) has taken longer than expected. Whatever the reason, Wade has NOT become an All-American. He has become an enigma. So much potential … so little production.

That may be about to change, though. Returning to his home state Monday night, the Shreveport native came off the bench to register two solo stops, two assists, a fumble recovery and a tackle for loss in Tennessee's 30-27 upset of LSU. That performance earned him a start in this Saturday's game against Ole Miss.

"He came in and played really well for us," Chavis said of Wade's effort at LSU. "We needed a little bit of a lift, and he played better in the LSU game, did some things we've been looking for."

That's why Wade, who started five games in 2004, will make his first start of 2005 at the cornerback spot opposite senior standout Jason Allen.

"I believe we have a talented group of guys in the secondary," Allen said. "Jonathan and Roshaun (Fellows) are going to continue competing, along with Inky Johnson and everybody else in the secondary. That's making Jonathan Wade a better football player."

Still, Wade's grip on the first-team job is tenuous. Fellows is quite capable of reclaiming that spot, and Johnson is challenging for the starting job, as well.

"There's always competition going on," Chavis said. "Inky Johnson is pushing, too. It's good to have competition, and it's great that we have it at those (secondary) positions."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories