SEC's best secondary

Some folks think Tennessee might have the best secondary in the nation this fall. In fact, Tennessee might not even have the best secondary in the state this fall.

Although they lack Tennessee's depth at defensive back, the Vanderbilt Commodores may have a better starting quartet than the Vols.

Vandy returns all four starters from a secondary that ranked fifth in the SEC and 18th nationally in pass defense last fall. Tennessee returns three starters from a secondary that ranked 11th in the SEC and 73rd nationally in pass defense. The Dores surrendered just 15 passing touchdowns last fall, compared to the Vols' 25. The Dores surrendered just 197.1 passing yards per game in 2007, whereas the Vols allowed 238.6.

Individually, Vanderbilt's secondary talent is just as impressive as Tennessee's. Junior D.J. Moore is a first-team corner on the Coaches preseason All-SEC team and senior Reshard Langford is a third-team safety on the same honor roll.

Moore, a 5-10, 182-pounder, was voted first-team Associated Press All-SEC after ranking second among all Commodores with 83 tackles as a sophomore last season. He was tabbed National Defensive Player of the Week for his sterling work in Vandy's 17-6 upset of No. 6 South Carolina last October. In addition, he averaged 25.7 yards on kickoff returns and saw spot duty on offense for the Commodores last fall.

Speaking at the recent SEC Media Days, Vandy head coach Bobby Johnson called Moore "a very special football player," adding: "He's one of the most natural football players I've ever been around. He just seems to know how to play the game at cornerback. He anticipates where the quarterback's going to throw the ball."

Langford, a 6-2, 210-pounder, has started all 35 games the Commodores have played since his arrival in Nashville. He was fifth on the team with 65 tackles last season and enters his senior year with eight career interceptions, most among current Vandy players.

"Here's a guy who's played extremely well, has been recognized as an outstanding player," Johnson said. "And he goes through all the little things to make himself better ... so, without saying a word, he's a great leader. And then he takes it upon himself to be a vocal leader also. He can back it up."

Vanderbilt also returns Myron Lewis (6-1, 200 junior) at the corner opposite Moore and Ryan Hamilton (6-2, 208 junior) at the safety spot opposite Langford.

"I real think Myron Lewis is going to have a breakout year," Johnson said. "He's a 6-1, 200-pound corner ... very athletic with great ball skills. We think he's going to step up and really play well."

Historically, Vanderbilt has been reasonably good on offense and porous on defense. That was not the case last year, however. Thanks to its superior secondary, the Dores ranked 16th nationally in total defense.

"The secondary is really extremely important to our defensive scheme because we try to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback," Johnson said. "Those guys have to be really sharp back there to know what's going on, try to take advantage of that pressure."

Langford believes Vanderbilt's secondary will be even better in '08 than it was in '07.

"It's shaping up well," he said. "All of the guys who played last year are back, and I think that is going to help our defense a lot because we lost some guys (both tackles, two linebackers and a first-team end) to graduation and to the NFL.

"I think we have one of the best secondaries in the SEC."

And, maybe – just maybe – the best secondary in the state.

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