Very Berry-like

There's only one Eric Berry and, unfortunately for the Tennessee Vols, the superstar safety is preparing to launch his NFL career.

The Big Orange still has Janzen Jackson, however, and he's becoming a little more Berry-like every day ... right down to the position he plays.

After starting at free safety as a true freshman last fall, Jackson is playing more of a strong safety position in the scheme first-year defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is installing this spring. It's a lot like the position Berry played last fall.

"It is, from the standpoint that I'm closer to the line and get to insert in the gaps and get to play bounce runs and stuff," Jackson said. "Where it's different is that I get to cover a lot more in this scheme."

Berry and Jackson combined last fall to give UT one of the hardest-hitting safety duos in college football. Both excel at bone-jarring tackles that bring fans to their feet and knock opponents off theirs.

"I like hitting people pretty hard," Jackson conceded with a soft smile, "but you can't beat interceptions. That's a game-changing play."

Jackson recorded one interception last fall, returning it 29 yards vs. Virginia Tech in the Chick fil-A Bowl. He expects to add several more in 2010.

"I have a lot of range," he said, adding that "I think my best quality as a safety is playing center field, being able to break vertically on routes and my coverage ability."

Tennessee's secondary is considered somewhat shaky since Berry and Dennis Rogan elected to bypass their senior seasons in favor of the NFL Draft. Jackson sees encouraging signs in the defensive backfield, however.

"I think we're further along than I thought we were, talent-wise," he said. "We're still working on the schemes. We've still got a lot of coverages to put in but I think we're further along than I thought we'd be."

Minus Berry and Rogan, this fall's secondary probably won't be as strong in run support as last fall's. It may be better against the pass, however.

"We lost Eric and Dennis, who were big parts of the secondary, as far as being physical," Jackson said. "But I think this new secondary brings a lot more coverage ability - being able to play different coverages and mix it up a lot more. Last year we just played the solid cover 2 basic principles. This year we'll be able to put a lot more speed on the field."

Jackson and fellow sophomore Darren Myles are the first-team safeties this spring but backup Prentiss Waggner is pushing them. Waggner registered six tackles and an interception in Saturday's scrimmage.

"Prentiss is making plays," Jackson said. "I think we're really deep at the safety spot."


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