Morley ready to emerge?

The return of 2005 starting safeties Jonathan Hefney and Antwan Stewart bodes well for Tennessee's 2006 secondary. But the key man in the Vols' defensive backfield is Demetrice Morley, who played a small role as a freshman last fall but has big-time skills.

"The first thing that jumps out at you is his athletic ability," secondary coach Larry Slade says. "He could actually go out and play corner but we need him to learn to be a dominant safety for us. He showed us last year that he certainly has the athletic ability to go out and do it."

Physically, the adjustment from high school ball to college ball isn't difficult for a defensive back. Mentally, it's night and day. That's why a guy as talented as Demetrice Morley was unable to crack the starting lineup last fall.

"The thing with him, or any other young guy, is consistency – consistency of effort, consistency of knowing what to do," Slade says. "They understand that Coach Slade is not interested in somebody who'll make a few plays, then give up a few big plays."

Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis offers similar thoughts when asked about Morley, who was a High School All-American back at Killian High in Miami.

"It's not just the ability to make plays," Chavis says. "It's also the ability not to GIVE UP plays."

Although Hefney and Stewart are good players, Morley brings a level of speed and athleticism to the secondary they simply do not.

"Obviously, you're talking about a guy that's talented," Chavis says. "He's just got to find his niche. He hasn't done that yet. It would certainly make us a much better secondary for him to step up and be the player he's going to be one day. It takes some guys a little longer. He's right there, and he's done a great job in the offseason. Now we have to transfer that onto the field."

So, what's the key for Morley in his quest to reach his potential?

"Knowledge," Slade says. "Any time you bring a freshman in, the key is all the things he has to learn, the adjustments and all that. It's tough when you go from playing one or two coverages in high school to playing multiple coverages with all of the adjustments (involved in college ball)."

Morley learned enough last fall to register 15 tackles, an interception and three pass breakups. Best of all, he was a much better player in November than he had been in September.

"Shucks, I thought he got better as we went on, as far as adapting and learning," Slade recalls. "He played some safety in high school but it was in limited coverages. It was basically, ‘Line up out there and go to the football.' It's a little bit different playing in the SEC."

Although he is best known for his agility in pass coverage, the 6-2, 195-pound Morley isn't shy about delivering a blow in run support.

"He's very physical," Slade says. "He is a gifted athlete and he's not afraid. He'll go hit you."


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