"We moved Daryl Vereen to our second-team safety, and he looked very good out there," Fulmer said following a two-hour practice at Haslam Field. "It's just an experiment, so we'll see (whether the move is permanent) but he's too good an athlete to be staying over there third- or fourth-team at tailback."
Tennessee's top three tailbacks from 2007 all return for '08. Rising senior Arian Foster ran for 1,193 yards last fall. Rising junior Montario Hardesty ran for 373 and rising sophomore Lennon Creer ran for 214 with a team-best 5.9 per-carry average. The Vols also have a mid-term freshman, Tauren Poole, who is competing for playing time at the position.
Blessed with reported 4.38 speed over 40 yards, Vereen attended UT's senior camp in June of 2006 and was so impressive that Fulmer offered him a scholarship on the spot. Vereen committed right then, rushed for 2,603 yards as a high school senior that fall, then signed with the Vols in February of '07.
One of four talented tailbacks in the Vols' 2007 signing class, Vereen is the third to change positions. Knoxville's Dennis Rogan moved to safety as soon as he arrived on campus. Loudon's Josh Hawkins, who redshirted last fall, will get a shot at linebacker once he recovers from a foot injury. The only '07 signee still playing tailback is Creer.
Asked what attributes Vereen exhibits that suggest he is suited to secondary play, Fulmer replied:
"I think he has the nature of a tough guy. He picked it (safety techniques) up pretty quick. He's a very smart young man. We have a bigger need right there (safety) than we do at running back right now."
Like Fulmer, defensive coordinator John Chavis thinks Vereen's athleticism could make him a valuable addition to the Vol secondary.
"We're going to do what's best for him and for the football team," Chavis said. "It's exciting because he's a good athlete and we need to see if we can get him on the field."
Although he exhibited incredible quickness and agility in the backpedal portion of the cone drills at UT's senior camp, Vereen said he never played a down of defensive back.
That may be about to change.