Built around Berry

Many offenses fashion their attack around their best player. Whether it's intentional or not, Tennessee's defense seems to be doing the same thing.

The Tampa-2 scheme Vol defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is installing this spring appears to be a great fit for All-America safety Eric Berry. That opinion comes from no less an expert than Berry himself.

"I believe it is," he said recently. "I like to be in the box a lot, I like to cover. There's a lot of blitzes. It pretty much fits my personality as a player, to be honest with you."

Although some variations of the new scheme are still to be installed, Berry says the 2009 defensive system is "not too much different" from the one Tennessee played under John Chavis in 2008.

"I've just got to make sure I'm perfect everywhere I line up," Berry said, "whether I'm covering or blitzing or just filling a gap."

With DeAngelo Willingham out of eligibility, Demetrice Morley dismissed, Brent Vinson sidelined by a shoulder injury and Berry limited by shoulder surgery, Dennis Rogan and Marsalous Johnson are the only veteran DBs participating fully in spring practice ... and they aren't first-teamers. Young guys such as C. J. Fleming, Stephaun Raines, Art Evans, Prentiss Waggner, Rod Wilks and Anthony Anderson are getting long looks. Berry believes that's good for morale.

"From a player's standpoint, it's just making everyone compete even more," he said. "It's showing that you've got to go out there and keep working. You can't take anything for granted.

"Dennis (Rogan) is one of those guys that can play anywhere. If your left guard goes out, you could call Dennis and he might know what to do. His knowledge of the game and every position in the secondary is very beneficial for any team ... and special teams."

Rogan, who started 10 games at cornerback and two at free safety last fall, could be a first-teamer again by the time Saturday's Orange & White Game arrives. There's an awful lot of shuffling being done in the secondary this spring.

"I just think everyone's competing with one another," Berry said. "It's not a hating type of competition. It's a friendly competition, making each other better. Everyone's stepping up.

"When we have a position change or anything like that, we just switch and keep on moving."

Berry is sitting out full-contact drills this spring to give his surgically repaired shoulder time to heal. Still, he says he's getting enough work to develop a good feel for the Tampa-2 scheme.

"This is the only thing I can't do – the scrimmaging and the live stuff," he said. "I'm going through all of the drills and the 7-on-7s and all that. It's working out pretty good."

One of the things Berry likes best about the Tampa-2 is how deceptive it is. Many opponents will struggle to recognize when the Vols are in cover-2 ... or when they're blitzing ... or when they're in man vs. zone coverage.

"It's hard to tell because of our disguises," Berry said. "A lot of teams probably won't be able to determine where the blitz is coming from ... or if we're blitzing at all. It's how we display our defense."

As the Vols' most experienced DB, Berry finds himself giving occasional pointers in practice. He also finds himself getting pointers, though.

"Sometimes I've got to ask other people to see what's going on," he conceded. "We kind of feed off each other, ask each other questions."

Despite the youth and inexperience in the secondary this spring, Berry likes what he has been seeing on the practice field.

"Yes, I have," he said. "Everyone's stepping up and everyone's trying to make plays and do the right thing on the field. We're all competing and we're all making plays."


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