Battle Is Key to Winning Saturday's War

Tennessee comes to the end of its longest season in recent memory on Saturday looking to give the home crowd and 20 seniors something lasting to remember.

One of those seniors who will hold the key to victory for the Vols is Julian Battle, a versatile 6-3, 205-pound, defensive back who has been a standout all season for Tennessee. During a year when the secondary, like every other defensive unit, has suffered through its share of injuries, Battle has been the glue that has held things together for UT's pass defense.

What's remarkable about Battle's ability to provide sound play at any of the secondary positions is the fact that he came to Tennessee from Los Angeles Valley Community College with only three games experience as a defensive back. As a freshman, he was an all-conference wide receiver and continued in that role as a sophomore until late in the year when he was switched to cornerback to fill a gap.

During this brief stint at corner, he impressed college scouts with his size, speed, strength and ability to transition in man coverage. During his two seasons at Tennessee, he has been effective wherever he has played and he has been perhaps the most durable member of the defense. In two seasons Battle has recorded 123 total tackles in 23 games, including nine this season against Florida.

Battle is the only member of the starting secondary this season not to miss time due to injury and if Jabari Greer can' start on Saturday against Kentucky, he will be the only starter left from the four that began the 2002 campaign.

Slated for duty at cornerback against Kentucky, Battle will be called upon to shut down Derek Abney and provide run support against SEC rush leader Artose Pinner. He could also stunt from either the corner or strong safety to get pressure on Jared Lorenzen.

Most of all, Battle can help imbue the defense with the energy and confidence it needs to take on Kentucky's versatile attack. He has only been at Tennessee for two seasons but is likely the best junior college player the Vols have had since Dale Carter left in 1991.

It may be another decade or more before UT fans see Battle's equal in the secondary, and they should savor this last chance to watch a standout player who appears headed to NFL stardom.


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