Deadlocked DBs

Both grew up in Tennessee. Both stand 5-feet-10. Both were rated 4-star prospects in high school. Both signed with the home-state Vols and, as fate would have it, both are listed first-team at right cornerback for Saturday's opener against UT Martin.

Still, there are some distinct differences between Nashville's Eric Gordon and Paris' Marsalis Teague: Their mental makeup and style of play, for instance.

"They're two different guys," head coach Derek Dooley said this week. "Eric is a real physical guy. He's got a lot of energy, and he's a feisty competitor.

"Marsalis probably plays a little bit better the deeper the field goes (due to) his experience on offense with ball judgment, his hips and those kinds of things.

"Eric is a little bit riskier. He takes some risks. Marsalis is a little bit calmer, so they bring two different things at corner."

Tennessee's defensive coordinator also sees some notable differences in the two young cornerbacks.

"Eric, he is like a little pit bull, man," Justin Wilcox said. "He is a very aggressive corner. He is very physical, he will take a chance now and then. He has to learn when to take that chance and when not to. He will come up and hit you. He brings that element to the secondary."

Conversely, the coordinator describes Teague as "a very polished guy. To come in and pick it up seamlessly like he did was very impressive. We are excited about him. I think he is going to give us some great play out there."

Secondary coach Terry Joseph seems comfortable with both corners, although neither has played a snap of college football on defense. Gordon redshirted as a freshman last fall, while Teague played wide receiver as a freshman last fall.

"Competition always brings out the best in players, and those two guys are competing for playing time," Joseph said. "They're going to battle every day in practice but they're good friends, so it's been all positive. They're making each other better."

For a guy who has been practicing at cornerback for a mere month, Teague's progress has been amazing.

"It has been," Joseph conceded. "It helps that he played defense in high school and also some quarterback. He understands what the offense is trying to do a little bit, and that's helped him.

"He's a phenomenal athlete with great hips and obviously some ball skills. And he's been a positive addition to our meeting room."

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