A bolder Berry

Talented but tentative as a freshman in 2007, one Tennessee Vol vows to be noticeably more aggressive in 2008.

That would be Eric Berry, who earned Freshman All-America recognition last fall despite a limited grasp of the safety's role in Tennessee's defensive scheme. His grasp is no longer limited, however, and neither is his potential.

"I know what to expect this year ... reading and reacting to plays," Berry says. "My pre-snap knowledge is more expanded. I know what to look for."

And, simply put, the more you know the more assertive you can be.

"You can be a lot more aggressive," Berry says.

Another factor that will make him more aggressive in 2008 is the fact he won't have to provide much help for Vol cornerback DeAngelo Willingham.

"DeAngelo Willingham's on an island by himself and you really don't have to worry about that wide receiver (because he'll be covered)," Berry says.

Yet another factor in Berry's increasing aggressiveness is fellow safety Demetrice Morley. His return after a year of academic exile means someone will have Berry's back, freeing him to take a few more chances than he did in 2007.

"With Demetrice Morley playing right next to you," Berry says, "you can pretty much gamble on anything you want to."

Although he and Morley had never played together prior to spring practice, the two show signs of becoming a super safety tandem.

"We know each other's every move," Berry says. "I know if I happen to mess up on one play, I know he's going to have my back. It's all about trusting."

Berry may believe in Morley but he does not believe all of the hype he's getting heading into his sophomore season.

"I'm aware of it but I really don't pay too much attention to it," he says. "I just go out there, keeping in mind that I need to work. That's the main thing.

"I look at preseason stuff as guesses about what could happen during the season. That's based off of last year, and last year is last year."

That's fortunate because Tennessee's secondary was inexperienced and ineffective last year. Conversely, this year's defensive backfield looks to be seasoned and superb.

"We're just working on our consistency and cutting out the big play," Berry notes. "If you look at any game at any level, you'll see that the big play is probably the reason that team will lose. You can look back at last season and see: Whenever we gave up big plays, that's when we lost."

With five new starters gracing Tennessee's front seven, the Vols desperately need a big year from their defensive backs.

"Really," Berry says, "we have the team's fate in our hands, I guess you could say."

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