Impressing the coach: UT’s Lanier in the mix for starting cornerback job
KNOXVILLE — When a player coming off a year of not playing gets moved to a new position and earns the compliment of coach Derek Dooley only a week into fall camp, you know that player is off to a good start.
Cornerback Izauea Lanier, a 6-foot-1, 191-pound junior college transfer, has found a home on the outside in a very competitive secondary.
“I think Izauea is settling in pretty good,” Dooley said. “He’s a big guy for a corner. He runs well enough. I tell you, I’ve been real pleased with his attitude, the way he’s working. All three of those guys (Maurice Couch, Byron Moore) from junior college have been good. They’re going to help us.”
Two years ago, Lanier had 66 tackles and four interceptions as a safety for East Mississippi Community College. Last year, Lanier redshirted, leaving him with three years of eligibility as a Volunteer. Now Lanier is learning to play cornerback, shaking off the playing rust and battling for a starting cornerback job.
And he’s still trying to get into shape.
“At first it was very difficult, very, very difficult,” Lanier said. “But me coming and getting back on the field, I think I’m getting back into football shape and so it’s good.”
As for learning the cornerback position, Lanier believes it’s a matter of improving his technique.
“Well, me playing safety, I used to be up a little higher in my backdrop,” Lanier said. “But me playing corner now, I’ve got to get a little lower, so I’ve got to learn how to flip my hips a little quicker.”
And the Alabama native knows that he must learn it quickly because of the competition he faces for playing time.
“It’s been very intense — very intense,” Lanier said.
“We’ve got a lot of good guys that came back, and they’re basically helping me learn my role on the team. The competition has been very stiff.”
It’s a competition that won’t get any easier the rest of the month. In a week’s worth of work, Lanier has positioned himself in battle for a cornerback spot. He knows that he has work to do if he’s going to stay in that competition until the season opener against Montana on Sept. 3.
“I’ve still got a little polishing to do and a lot of preparation to go through before everything is settled in,” Lanier said.