Who will replace Berry and Rogan?

Losing two key starters in the secondary, many Vol fans may be ready to sound the alarm. At InsideTennessee.com we have decided to take an early look at each position. What early enrollees are expected to make an immediate impact? What positions are up for grabs and who will battle it out for those roles during spring ball? Go "Inside" for our take on the situation.

When one examines the returning Tennessee secondary for the 2010 college football season, Eric Berry's departure is almost always the first thing that comes to mind.

Berry was undoubtedly the anchor of a Tennessee secondary, which finished 15th nationally in pass defense, while snagging 10 interceptions, kept opponents' passing percentage to just under 56 percent and allowed a national-low five touchdown passes all season.

But after the Berry hangover, one can take comfort in the return of sophomore Janzen Jackson of Lake Charles, Louisiana.

When describing the potential of No. 15, Berry said in September, "I believe he graded higher than me. I told him he did much better than I did in my first game. He has a bright bright future."

A lasting image of the 2009 season for Volunteers fans is the unholy hit that the defensive back laid on Florida wide receiver Brandon James. The hit at the time was just another incompletion, but spawned an array of YouTube videos glorifying the youngster's fierce ability.

But 2009 wasn't just highlight hits for Jackson. As a freshman, Jackson was all over the field, compiling 26 solo tackles, 11 assisted tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one interception for a return of 29 yards.

Jackson will likely move from the free safety to the strong safety position previously held by Berry. But who will back up the talented young defensive back?

Junior cornerback Dennis Rogan declared for the NFL draft, leaving an additional spot open in the defensive backfield.

Juniors Art Evans and Prentiss Waggner saw playing time in 2009, with Waggner stepping into the free safety vacancy against Memphis following Jackson's brief suspension from the team following an off-field incident in which two other players were dismissed.

When reading by seniority, next on the roster would fall juniors Anthony Anderson, C. J. Fleming and Stephaun Raines, all with very limited playing experience.

Farther down the depth chart, experience is even scarcer, with sophomores Eric Gordon, Nyshier Oliver and Rod Wilks filling bench seats.

Gordon, a highly rated cornerback coming out of high school, could serve as an effective pass defender in the coming years.

Needless to say, Jackson, despite his age, will have to serve as a defensive leader for an inexperienced Tennessee secondary.

As of now, the Volunteers' commitment list is short on defensive backs, with only two talented names expected to arrive in Knoxville.

Three-star safety Eddrick Loften, a 6-foot, 205 pound recruit out of Irving, Texas, could provide help. Loften was newly appointed head coach Derrick Dooley's second commitment.

Signing day can bring lots of surprises, as proven with Tennessee's addition of prized running back Bryce Brown last year.

Tennessee received two commitments Sunday, from junior college corner Dave Clark and Valdosta Georgia safety Dontavis Sapp. Clark has three years of eligibility and will be expected to give the Vols added depth this fall.

The future of Tennessee's secondary will become much clearer if the Vols can land another young ball-hawk after signing day.

Regardless of this 2010 signing class, the defensive backs that hit Haslam Practice Field in spring practice will expect a competitive series of battles as all positions appear to be open.


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