Living up to the hype

Much-maligned in 2007, Tennessee's secondary is being much ballyhooed in 2008. Can it live up to the hype?

Perhaps. Vol defensive backs stole the show in Saturday's first full-scale scrimmage, a fact that even defensive coordinator John Chavis conceded.

"We've got some talented guys back there," he said. "When you've got players like that and they're well coached they're going to make plays. Larry Slade's doing a great job of getting them in position, and they responded by making some really good plays for us."

Despite playing just 20 snaps, free safety Demetrice Morley intercepted two passes – one was nullified by a quick whistle – and got his hands on another pass. Senior DeAngelo Willingham, quickly emerging as a lock-down corner, contributed a tackle for loss and two pass breakups.

Freshman safety Stephaun Raines posted four tackles and redshirt freshman safety Daryl Vereen chipped in three. Strong safety Eric Berry registered a couple of stops in his 20-play stint. Cornerbacks Antonio Gaines and Brent Vinson chipped in a tackle and a pass breakup each.

In addition to getting their hands on some passes, Vol defensive backs provided good run support. Typically, though, Chavis was guarded in his comments.

"We made some good plays, and there were times when we didn't make plays," he said. "It's never going to be good enough but we made some good plays."

The coordinator was a little less guarded when asked about 6-4, 240-pound Gerald Williams, who saw action at weakside linebacker. Asked if he likes what he is seeing from the junior college transfer, Chavis nodded.

"We do. And we're going to look at him some in the middle, and see where the best fit's going to be," the coordinator said. "Then we're going to get him some work as a pass rusher. We're always trying to find the best pieces."

Williams should become more productive as he becomes more comfortable with his assignments.

"We've thrown a lot at him," Chavis noted. "When you've played six days and throw the entire playbook out there ... for a guy who hasn't been around, that's a lot."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories