"I guess we'll find out Saturday," Vol secondary coach Larry Slade said earlier this week. "You've got a guy in Jason Allen who made a lot of plays, and you're replacing him with a 170-pounder. But Inky brings some things to the table and Roshaun (Fellows) brings some things to the table."
Allen led the SEC in tackles as a junior in 2004 and was leading UT in tackles at the time of his injury. He probably was the surest and most physical tackler on the Vol squad. There is no way a 170-pounder like Johnson can supply the physical dimension Allen did. Yet, Slade is confident Johnson and Fellows will do just fine.
"Physical is relative," Slade said. "When Jason hit a guy he might go backward. These guys (Johnson and Fellows) are going to hit as hard as they can. The big thing is that we get ‘em stopped."
Since suffering his season-ending injury, Allen has not addressed the secondary as a group. He has spoken with the DBs one on one, however.
"He's been encouraging them individually," Slade said. "He's leading from afar. Jason set such a high standard, on and off the field – from a toughness standpoint and a playmaker standpoint. Those guys look up to him."
Defensive coordinator John Chavis says Vol defensive backs played fairly well against Georgia following Allen's injury.
"They were solid," he said. "Obviously, we didn't play the kind of football we believe we can play on the last drive. Up to that point I thought they were very good. We're greener than we've ever been before but it's not like we're putting guys out there who aren't good enough to play."