The next Eric Berry?

One player thought he "stood out" at Tennessee's recent skills camp. He didn't realize just how much he stood out, though, until Vol defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin approached him.

"Coach Kiffin came over during the 7-on-7s and said I could be the next Eric Berry," recalled Desmond Brown of Cherokee County High in Centre, Ala.

Berry was a consensus All-American as a sophomore, so that's high praise. It's such high praise, in fact, that it left Brown speechless.

"Wow! I just laughed," he recalled by phone from Centre.

Like Berry, Brown plays safety. Like Berry, he is blessed with good speed (4.48 over 40 yards). Like Berry, Brown has a muscular build (6-0, 185 pounds) and the cover skills of a cornerback.

"I worked at corner the whole time during the 7-on-7s," Brown recalled. "Coach Kiffin told me I could stay in the lineup, like Eric Berry does, and wouldn't have to come out (on obvious passing downs). That made me feel a lot of love toward Tennessee. I'd love to play for Coach Kiffin."

He has that chance if he wants it. Brown says Tennessee offered a scholarship at the conclusion of the camp. He also has offers from Southern Miss, Mississippi State, Arkansas, South Carolina, Appalachian State and Eastern Michigan.

"I'd like to make a decision this summer," he said. "I really like Tennessee, and I'd like to know where I stand. I thought their camp was really well organized, and the talent level was off the charts. There were a lot of big names there, and I felt I had to step up."

Obviously, he did.

"Yes indeed," he said. "That was one of my better camps. I believe I stood out at Tennessee. I got beat a few times but I made more good plays than bad ones."

Brown described himself as "a physical safety who's quick on his feet, aware and always trying to get to the ball."

He's always trying to help his team, too. After transferring in from Model High in Rome, Ga., Brown had to sit out half of Cherokee County's 2008 season. Once he was eligible, he went to his coach with a proposition.

"I said I'll play anywhere you need me," Brown recalled, "and he played me everywhere."

That's only a slight exaggeration. The transfer lined up at outside linebacker, cornerback, safety and defensive end.

"I had to fit in to get in," Brown said with a laugh.

He'll be adding an offensive position to his repertoire this season – running back. His first love, though, is defense. He clearly relishes breaking up passes and belting ball-carriers.

"When I'm in cover-2 I ain't letting nobody catch the ball in my zone," he said. "But I probably would say making tackles is the thing I do best."

Brown isn't tackling with quite as much force lately. While showcasing his skills at so many muggy Southern camps, he has seen his weight drop from 195 to 185 pounds in recent weeks.

"The camps were hot," he said, "and they really work you hard."

No one worked him any harder than Tennessee's coaches, and he's thankful they did.

"I really like their intensity; that's what a program needs to win a lot of games," he said. "I love (head coach) Lane Kiffin and (secondary coach) Willie Mack Garza. He coached me up real good. I don't like for a coach to pat me on the back all the time; I like somebody who'll make me do what I need to do to get better."

Brown also loved Tennessee's state-of-the-art facilities, noting that "They opened my eyes."

That's appropriate. Desmond Brown opened some eyes that day, as well.


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