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UT superstar Berry in a secondary bunch with many unknowns

UT superstar Berry in a secondary bunch with many unknowns

Posted: Wednesday, September 2, 2009 4:51 pm
By: By BETH RUCKER, Associated Press Writer

KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee fans may have a hard time recognizing the Volunteers’ secondary.
Sure, everyone’s acquainted with All-American strong safety Eric Berry, but there will be several new freshman and sophomore faces with him.
“They’re going to have an opportunity,” secondary coach Willie Mack Garza said. “Bottom line is that if they’re the best we’ve got, then they’re going to be on the football field.”
True freshman Janzen Jackson and converted junior cornerback Dennis Rogan are listed as the probable starters for free safety. Sophomore Anthony Anderson and true freshman Mike Edwards are listed as probable starters at left cornerback, while sophomore Art Evans is expected to start at right cornerback.
Having a talent like Berry assist with coaching makes it easier for the coaches to play younger players, Garza said. Berry has started all 26 games of his career and was the only player guaranteed a starting position at the beginning of fall camp.
“Having Eric out there with him really makes a big difference,” he said.
Still, in a system like coach Lane Kiffin’s, where a priority is placed on competition among players, the young defensive backs know their starting jobs aren’t safe.
“Anybody could go at any given time,” Evans said. “It just makes you want to stay on your A game. It’s fine, really, because you know somebody’s going to be pushing you, and that’s how we’re going to become the best secondary that we always talk about.”
WILL D-MO GO?: Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin says wide receiver Denarius Moore is ahead of schedule on his rehabilitation plan.
Moore practiced running routes during Monday’s practice, 61/2 weeks after undergoing foot surgery.
Kiffin said he’d been told the junior might be available to play on Saturday against Western Kentucky.
“Very surprised at Denarius and how well he’s doing,” Kiffin said. “They said he could play this week, but I can’t imagine that happening.”
Because there have been so many injuries at wide receiver in recent weeks, Kiffin said all three true freshman — Nu’Keese Richardson, Henry County product Marsalis Teague and Zach Rogers — would play.
IT’S FOOTBALL TIME: Tennessee has set kickoff for the Sept. 26 game against Ohio for 7 p.m. Eastern time. The game will be broadcast on pay-per-view.
The Vols’ will kick off against Western Kentucky at 11:21 p.m. Saturday. UCLA game time is set for 3 p.m. Sept. 12, and Florida game time is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Sept. 19.
ORANGE SLICES: Tennessee has won nearly 76 percent of its season openers with a 82-24-6 record for the first games of the season. In the last 25 seasons, the Vols have gone 20-3-2 in the opener, but have lost their last two straight. … Coach Lane Kiffin is Tennessee’s 21st new head coach. The Vols coaches are 16-4 in their first games.
… Tennessee safety Eric Berry enters the 2009 season needing just 15 interception return yards to break the NCAA career record of 501 set by Florida State’s Terrell Buckle from 1989-1991.
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SMOKEY SEZ: “Day in and day out, you’re fighting for your job. Eric Berry is a different cat, but for the most part, day in and day out, we tell those guys we’re evaluating every day, so you better come to play. And that’s the way it should be,” Tennessee secondary coach Willie Mack Garza said of the competition among the defensive backs.

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