Vol DBs 'push' for interceptions

Reserve safety Mark Jones had a surprise waiting for him at halftime of last Saturday's Vol football opener against Wyoming. Upon making his way to the UT locker room, he was ordered by his fellow defensive backs to do 20 pushups.

The pushups were a penalty for dropping a potential interception. Vol DBs were so heavily criticized for dropping would-be interceptions last fall that they decided to impose a 20-pushup penance whenever one of them drops a ball ... even in practice.

The pushups may be working because the Vols picked off three ''oskies'' in their 47-7 blowout of Wyoming, including one each by starting safeties Rashad Baker and Julian Battle. Still, head coach Phillip Fulmer says Vol defensive backs have a ways to go.

''I'd like to say we had a lot to do with it (intercepting three balls),'' Fulmer said, ''but a couple of them were bad plays on their (Cowboys') part. The break Rashad made was really good. That showed experience and response to coaching. The pass Keyon (Whiteside) caught stuck in his pads. He was in the right spot, and it was a good call because they were expecting man and we were in zone. The other (interception) was a heck of an athletic play by Julian resulting from pressure on the quarterback.''

Although the Game 1 interceptions may have been more a discredit to Wyoming's offense than a credit to Tennessee's defense, Fulmer sees signs that the Vol secondary is progressing.

''Where the difference is right now is the attitude of our defensive backs,'' he said. ''They've taken it to heart in practice and realized that they've had their hands on a lot of balls the last couple of years and haven't intercepted as many of them as they should have. They're really working to be better and pushing each other. It's peer pressure, as much as anything.

''Hopefully, this trend will continue. It's a lot better to take it 30, 40 or 50 yards than having to take it 70 or 80 all the time.''


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