Fast learner

Making the switch from wide receiver to cornerback requires a guy with quick feet and an even quicker mind.

A guy like Marsalis Teague, for instance.

After catching 13 passes as a freshman receiver for the 2009 Tennessee Vols, Teague moved to cornerback this preseason and immediately looked as if he belonged there. He exhibited good feet, good hips and a good grasp of his assignments.

"Teague is probably one of the smartest players I've been around," Vol secondary coach Terry Joseph said recently. "He's really picked the defense up well. He has the skill set - quick feet and good ball skills, obviously, because he was a wide receiver. He's developing well."

Teague has just one soft spot in his game at present, and it's understandable. After spending 2009 trying to avoid collisions, he's learning to instigate collisions in 2010.

"He probably needs to become a little bit more physical in the tackling aspect of it," Joseph said, "but the guy's going to help us a ton this year and he's going to help us win a lot of games throughout his career here."

The most underrated attribute of a quality cornerback is flexible hips. Even if you run like the wind, you can't play corner without the hip flexibility to instantly change direction when the wide receiver makes his cut. From all accounts, Teague's hips are exceptional.

"Those first few days you didn't want to overcoach him and cloud his mind," Joseph recalled, "but you could see him flip his hips. You could see him flipping his hips and just playing ball. He has natural hip flip and good feet. You can see it easily."

Teague's good feet, good hips and good instincts would be wasted, however, if he didn't also have a good attitude. He embraced the switch from offense to defense and has enthusiastically dedicated himself to becoming the best cornerback possible.

"One thing Coach Dooley has preached to these guys is 'Team first,'" Joseph said. "Teague and Ted Meline (switched from wideout to safety) had no disagreement with coming over and helping the team. That's a tribute to those guys. That's the type of guys we're looking for."

Teague developed one habit on offense that has slowed his development just a bit on defense. Joseph is working to correct that flaw.

"As a defensive back we don't want to watch the quarterback, like you would do as a receiver," the Vol aide said. "You've got to get to where you can cover the receiver. He has to get a little more eye discipline to put himself in position to make more plays."

Once Teague develops a more disciplined eye, he could find himself playing nickel back on obvious passing downs. Once he gets a little experience, he could find himself being an every-down cornerback. One of his secondary mates is amazed by Teague's progress thus far.

"He's adjusting real well," safety Prentiss Waggner said. "He asks a lot of questions. He's a guy I always hang with and knew he could be a natural corner. He's a very good athlete, and I was excited about that move."

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