Green and growing

Tennessee secondary coach Willie Mack Garza expected two things of his freshman defensive backs in the Vols' first preseason scrimmage:

1. Some good plays because of their talent.

2. Some bad plays because of their inexperience.

He got precisely what he was expecting.

The rookies made some exceptional plays that had heads turning. They also made some busts that had heads shaking.

"They worked hard," Garza said. "They did some good things and they did some bad things."

Although he would've preferred to see fewer "bad things," the Vol aide was philosophical about the Vols' first dress rehearsal.

"You always make mistakes in the first scrimmage," he said. "You've got a lot of young guys out there. We as coaches have got to do a better job of getting 'em reps in practice, so when they get in a game-type situation they feel comfortable."

Freshman free safety Janzen Jackson showed up several times in the scrimmage and appears farther along than most rookies.

"Yeah, he's a heck of a football player," Garza said. "So are Darren Myles and Eric Gordon and Michael Edwards and Nyshier Oliver. Those are very good football players."

The problem with throwing these first-year DBs into the mix is this: When a freshman defensive tackle makes a mistake, the result is a seven-yard gain. When a freshman defensive back makes a mistake, the result is seven points. Still, Garza says the UT staff won't hesitate to put the rookie corners and safeties on the field this fall.

"Not if they're the best players," he said. "Coach Monte Kiffin and Coach Lane Kiffin will make the decision about who we're going to put on the field on Saturdays.

"We're going to play the best players, whether they're freshmen or seniors or redshirt sophomores. We're going to put the best out there every day."


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