UT secondary 'bombs'

Perhaps Tennessee's defensive backs should've worn combat helmets – instead of football helmets – Saturday at The Swamp. That might have provided better protection from the bombs Florida dropped on them in a 59-20 romp.

Gator quarterback Tim Tebow passed for 299 yards, with 216 of those coming on six long-range strikes that covered 49, 48, 44, 30, 25 and 20 yards. Clearly, the secondary's first outing without senior cornerback Antonio Gaines (torn ACL) was not a rousing success.

"There was some good things in the game but giving up those big plays kind of overshadows everything else," head coach Phillip Fulmer said on his Sunday teleconference. "You can't stop on the dinky play action when you're playing a third or a half (of the field)."

Florida speedster Percy Harvin caught four balls for 120 yards, a whopping 30 yards-per-catch average. He got behind Marsalous Johnson for a 49-yard third-quarter bomb that carried from the Florida 1-yard line to midfield and got behind DeAngelo Willingham for a 48-yard grab in the fourth quarter.

"I think we miscalculated the speed of Harvin," Fulmer said, "and that allowed them to get off the 1-yard line."

Tennessee's coverage on most of the six long passes was decent. The Vol defenders just didn't make the play.

"On the deep balls guys we were in good position but, for whatever reason, stopped to read the ball or misjudged the ball," Fulmer said. "We should've made better decisions in staying on top of the receivers."

Freshman Eric Berry, starting at cornerback after previously playing strong safety, was burned by Riley Cooper on a 30-yard touchdown play in the first quarter.

"Eric was in good position but slowed down," Fulmer noted. "I guess he thought he was in position to make the play."

Berry came back later in the game to intercept a pass and return it 96 yards, pulling Tennessee within 28-20 at the time. All in all, his debut as a starting corner was somewhat uneven.

"He grew up a lot," Fulmer said on his post-game show. "Sometimes you have those lessons, and they're hard lessons. He'll get better from it. It's tough for a freshman. Our sophomore (Marsalous Johnson) got run by, as well.

"It's just one of those things. They're outstanding players. Somehow we've got to get better at those things. You can't give up plays like that."

The run support of Tennessee's defensive backs against Florida was little better than their pass coverage. That enabled the Gators to pop a bunch of nice runs.

"It was just speed outside and us not responding to it," Fulmer said. "Defensively, we didn't get whipped up front. We got beat on the perimeter."

Asked if there will be personnel changes in the secondary this week, the coach replied: "We're going to talk about that tonight. At every position on this team there should be competition."


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