Parrish ready to step up?

No one knows quite what to expect during spring practice. Still, Tennessee's full-scale scrimmage Saturday afternoon at Neyland Stadium featured a couple of developments no one could've seen coming:

1. Safety Jarod Parrish was making plays.

2. Secondary coach Larry Slade was smiling.

It's safe to say the former contributed significantly to the latter.

Slade's defensive backs intercepted four passes during Saturday's scrimmage, with three of them being picked off by Parrish. He would've returned one 60 yards for a touchdown except for a quick whistle from head coach Phillip Fulmer. Parrish also registered three tackles.

"Today should do a lot for Jarod's confidence," Fulmer said following the 135-play workout. "He's getting his hands on some balls in some of our coverages. He's the robber guy. On one of them, he made a very nice play and kind of set the quarterback (Nick Stephens) up."

Even the head coach had to be surprised by Parrish's performance. The 6-3, 190-pound fifth-year senior from Summerville, Ga., did so little in his first four years on campus that many fans probably forgot he was on the team. He had made just one career start – in 2004 vs. Alabama due to the abrupt dismissal of safety Brandon Johnson – and played so poorly he has been relegated to special teams and mop-up duty ever since. His stat line for his first four seasons at UT shows 11 tackles, zero interceptions and zero pass breakups.

Saturday, though, Parrish was making like ex-Vol Deon Grant – roaming all over the secondary to pick off errant throws.

"Great, great," Slade said when asked about Parrish's performance. "He made a lot of plays. I'm looking forward to watching it on tape."

As fans are acutely aware, Tennessee must replace four of the top five defensive backs from 2006 – Inky Johnson, Jonathan Wade, Antwan Stewart and Demetrice Morley. The returning cast is painfully inexperienced except for senior corner Roshaun Fellows, who missed '06 following surgery on a pectoral muscle. Thus, the fact Parrish has been around a lot – even though he hasn't played a lot – weighs heavily in his favor.

"Jarod is a veteran, and he understands," Slade said. "He's maybe not as fast as some but he can anticipate. He's doing a good job of doing that, just using his experience.

"When you go to practice every day and you're in a system for two or three years, then all of a sudden the light goes on. He recognizes formations and he's able to make some plays."

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