Jarod Parrish has accumulated just one start, eight tackles and three assists during his first four years in Tennessee's system. He has accumulated knowledge, however, and he believes that will serve him well as a fifth-year senior in 2007.
"At the safety position you have to know a lot," he said. "You're basically the quarterback of the defense, so you've got to know what the corners are doing and what the linebackers are doing."
You'd better know what you're doing, too. Parrish does, and that's why he is listed No. 1 at strong safety as Tennessee prepares for its Sept. 1 opener at California. When you've been in a defensive scheme for four years, you figure out what's expected of you and how to deliver it.
"I'm definitely not a rookie," he said, grinning softly.
Parrish didn't perform like a rookie last March. He was the breakout player of spring practice, in fact, recording four interceptions in three game-type scrimmages. In the process he rose from obscurity to celebrity.
"It's a great story if it pans out this way for Jarod Parrish," head coach Phillip Fulmer said. "He had a fantastic spring, was in the right place and made all the right calls. He's a very bright young man."
With only free safety Jonathan Hefney returning from the 2006 defensive backfield, Tennessee's secondary may be the No. 1 concern heading into 2007. As things now stand, Parrish will be making his second career start vs. Cal, while cornerbacks Antonio Gaines and Marsalous Johnson will be making their first.
That level of inexperience in an area as critical as the secondary is sobering. Still, Fulmer is upbeat.
"I started with great concern," the head man said, "but I came out of spring practice feeling a lot more optimistic about our secondary than when we went in. The cornerbacks, Antonio Gaines and Marsalous Johnson, have done nothing to suggest they cannot play in the Southeastern Conference."
Parrish goes a step further. He believes the new-look Vol secondary will thrive in 2007, despite its lack of starting experience.
"I feel like we're going to be really good," he said. "We've got a lot of people that maybe didn't start but they got a lot of reps throughout the year. It's not like we're bringing in guys who never played before and don't know what they're doing. This is just their first time starting.
"And we have good linebackers and a good D-line, and that's going to help us out a lot back there."