Seasoned secondary?

The fact Tennessee has three seniors in its first-team secondary who have combined for 37 career starts is misleading ... if not downright deceiving.

One of those seniors, free safety Jonathan Hefney, has 36 of those starts. The other three first-teamers have one start among them.

Senior strong safety Jarod Parrish has just one career start, 11 tackles, no interceptions and no pass breakups to show for his first four years on campus. Senior cornerback Antonio Gaines has zero starts, 10 tackles, zero interceptions and one PBU in three years with the program.

The other projected first-teamer, sophomore corner Marsalous Johnson, saw mop-up duty in eight games last fall, recording two special-teams tackles. He's trying to fend off heralded freshman Eric Berry this preseason.

Based on starts and statistics, the Vol secondary appears to be generally inexperienced and largely unproven heading into the 2007 season. Hefney is unwilling to concede either point, however.

"Jarod Parrish knows everything," he said. "Antonio Gaines and Marsalous have played in the games, too, so they know everything, too. They're like veterans back there."

Parrish and Gaines qualify as veterans only in terms of practice experience, but Hefney believes that should count for something.

"Everybody's been together except Marsalous, and he's been playing with us, too," he said. "We're really just coaching him up now."

Hefney's helpers have been productive in the first two preseason scrimmages. Gaines has 4 tackles, a sack, an interception and a pass breakup to show for the two game-type workouts. Parrish has 7 tackles and a pass breakup. Johnson has 5 tackles and a PBU.

Although many Vol fans still consider the secondary a shaky area, Hefney will not accept that premise. He believes his cohorts are going to surprise a lot of people.

"They've played a lot," he said. "They're experienced and have the know-how. They just have to go out and perform on the field."

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