Top safeties, picks 6-10

Tennessee secondary coach Buddy Bennett's 1970 defensive backs – nicknamed "Bennett's Bandits" – set a school record (36 interceptions) that probably will never be broken. No Vol team has come within 11 "Oskies" of that number in the 35 years since. The 2003, 2004 and 2005 teams didn't total 36 interceptions combined.

The two most prolific pass thieves in UT history played for the 1969 and 1970 secondaries, and both show up in picks 6 through 10 on my list of Tennessee's greatest safeties for the 1964-2004 time frame.

That said, here are picks 6 through 10:

10. MIKE JONES: After starting at free safety in '67 and '68, Jones moved to cornerback in '69. He ranks second on Tennessee's career list in interceptions (16) and is tied for first in return yardage (305). He had a 71-yard interception return vs. Kentucky in '67.

9. GIBRIL WILSON: A big-time hitter, this junior college transfer registered a whopping 196 tackles as the starting strong safety in 2002 and 2003. He ranked second on the team as a senior with 114 stops, eight of them for minus yardage. He also recorded a team-high 12 pass breakups that season. Tabbed in Round 5 of the 2004 NFL Draft, he soon will begin his third season with the New York Giants.

8. BILL BATES: The No. 1 strong safety in 1979, '80 and ‘82, Bates also spent one year (1981) as the first-team free safety. Pound for pound, he may have been UT's most physical player of the past four decades. His tenacity, toughness and excellence on special teams enabled him to make the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent, then stick with the team for 15 years.

7. TIM PRIEST: Tennessee's starter at strong safety in '69 and '70, Priest was voted team captain, All-SEC and first-team Academic All-America as a senior. His 18 career interceptions (two as a sophomore, seven as a junior, nine as a senior) rank No. 1 on UT's all-time list. He is tied for first in career return yardage with 305. He now provides expert analysis on Vol radio broadcasts.

6. BOBBY MAJORS: The starting free safety in 1970 and '71, he set a UT record with 10 interceptions in '70 that still stands. Majors was All-SEC as a junior and senior, All-American as a senior. His 13 career interceptions rank sixth in program history. A third-round pick in the 1972 NFL Draft, he spent two years with the Cleveland Browns and a year with the Memphis Southmen of the World Football League.

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