Weekend Furlow

Derrick Furlow looks like he would be a good cornerback in the Southeastern Conference.

During Tennessee's spring scrimmages. Furlow, a junior from Crossett, Ark., has displayed good cover skills, nice speed and excellent tackling ability.

One of the most vicious blows thrown Saturday was Furlow's tackle of 6-foot-6, 245-pound tight end Luke Stocker on a short sideline route. Furlow is 6-1, 190.

Furlow has caught my attention in each of the three Saturday scrimmages.

So what does secondary coach Larry Slade think of Furlow?

``He is a very good walk-on,'' Slade said.

Can he get into the rotation?

``He is an outstanding walk-on,'' Slade said, with emphasis on the adjective.

There have been years when I thought Furlow looked capable of playing in UT's secondary. Apparently, not now. At least, according to Slade.

Even though Furlow has been impressive, the Vols have other defensive backs blessed with ability, like Eric Berry, Demetrice Morley, DeAngelo Willingham, Dennis Rogan, and others.

That's why a talent like Furlow – who suffered a torn ACL before his senior season in high school after rushing for 1,100 yards the year before – isn't in the plans.

That says more about UT's secondary than Furlow.

Make no mistake, UT's secondary is nothing like the diaper dandies of 2007 who allowed 238.6 passing yards per game while opponents completed 57.4 percent of their passes. Seven teams passed for more than 245 yards, four had 299 or more.

The secondary gave up a ton of big plays.

It didn't Saturday. It didn't get five interceptions like the week before, but that's OK by Slade.

``As soon as we got in our group, I asked, `How many big plays?'' Slade said. ``There were very few. I can't think of one that was 20 yards. That's the deal: Stop the big play and you'll be in every football game and make some plays along the way. That's how you win.''

One thing Slade likes about his secondary is the versatility. He said Berry, Morley, Rogan and Willingham each can play safety or corner. Berry, Rogan and Willingham each played some free safety Saturday. That provides remarkable flexibility when you run your nickel and dime packages – flexibility Slade said is a must.

``We need that flexibility,'' Slade said. ``Our numbers are not where they need to be.''

Oh, really? Tennessee has seven potential starters, a player that is making strides in Anthony Anderson and a talented walk-on who's not in the mix.

Slade would like to use Berry as a blitzer.

``We did some of that the other day and he's outstanding (at it) as you probably know,'' he said.

Slade said the difference in the defensive backs this spring as opposed to last is basically two fold.

``Experience and confidence,'' Slade said. ``They really see themselves as an outstanding group, and when they go to practice, they practice that way. And when they get an opportunity to play, they play that way.''

It's more than just experience and confidence. It's talking.

``They've been as good a group as I've been around in communicating,'' Slade said. ``Demetrice and Eric have really worked hard together. They do a great job talking, getting us in the right plays.

``That's something we haven't had around here. Jon Hefney (a senior last year) was outstanding, but that's not something he did real well.

``These two guys (Berry and Morley) see it as something that's necessary. They see it as something that helps them make plays. They communicate not just with us, but with linebackers so you see those guys being where they need to be.''

Are Berry and Morley capable of being the top safety tandem in the SEC?

``The capability is there,'' Slade said. ``They've got to go out and do it when the lights come on. They certainly have the ability and from a character standpoint, they're working hard to be the best they can.''

Slade said he was willing to bet both would be watching tape of the scrimmage within an hour of its conclusion.

Slade said he was impressed that Morley remembered most of the scheme despite missing last season for academic reasons.

When the backups were scrimmaging, Morley was an instructor.

``He was out there coaching them and talking and I said, `Man, that's exactly how I would say it.' Yes, he's come a long way.''

The Morley of two years ago wouldn't have done that.

``It's a different Morley,'' Slade said. ``Football is very important to him. It's very important to him that he does the right thing and from an example standpoint, guys are looking at him and he shares with them things that happened to him.''

Morley coined the name Goon Squad for the secondary.

``They're going to mug you, I guess, if they get an opportunity,'' Slade said.

That's better than the names they were called last year.


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