Vols focus in for second scrimmage
By Grant Ramey | (email@example.com)
KNOXVILLE — Through two weeks of camp, Tennessee has
three starting safeties. That’s one man too many.
UT’s 3-4 defense doesn’t come with the traditional free and strong safety look that most schemes used; instead safeties are identified as simply ‘left’ and ‘right.’ What’s not been identified is who’s will start at either spot.
Brent Brewer, Brian Randolph and Byron Moore are the finalists through the first half of camp. Picking two of those three names could be easier after today’s scrimmage at Neyland Stadium.
“It’s still wide open,” safeties coach Josh Conklin said Tuesday. “I think the next scrimmage when they come out, we want to see some major separation.”
Brewer, coming off an ACL tear that ended his year eight games into the season last season, is the most senior of the group.
Brewer had started 14-consecutive games for Tennessee at safety the past two seasons before suffering the season-ending knee injury against South Carolina.
So far in camp Brewer’s been pushed by Moore, who used to be considered by Tennessee coaches as the first man off the bench. That’s not the case after the start of fall practices.
“Byron’s had a great camp,” Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said Wednesday. “He was kind of our starting (substitute) safety, but I’m going to tell you, he’s a starter to me. We have three safeties that are starters right now.”
Moore made just two starts in 2011, his redshirt sophomore season, but played in 11 of 12 games after transferring to Tennessee from Los Angeles Harbor Community College.
“(You) just gotta keep showing up and (making) production points,” Moore said, “keep making plays, keep showing that I can make plays and be a real asset back there.”
Moore said his strength in the first scrimmage, where he recorded six tackles, was run support, something he’s been working on improving in camp.
“I think I’m more of a pass guy,” Moore said, “but this whole camp I’ve been focusing trying to show I can help in the run game too.”
At the other safety has been Randolph, who made eight starts as a freshman in 2011. He finished fifth in total tackles with 55 after Tennessee’s thin roster forced him into early playing time.
“I think it’s just going to make all of us better,” Randolph said of the three safeties. “I like the competition. If one of us goes down we have someone to back them up, so that’s a good feeling to have.”
To play either safety in Tennessee’s 3-4 means not only knowing both positions, but knowing what calls to make to the cornerbacks.
“You gotta know both sides of the ball,” Moore said, “know the checks for both sides of the ball to get those corners lined up at the right spot on both sides.
“You’ve gotta really know the playbook.”
JEKYLL ISLAND: After being asked about the camp at Milligan, Dooley talked about his memories from his trips to football camp during his career at Clarke Central High School in Athens, Ga.
“We loaded up Yellow Hounds and drove six hours on a two-lane highway and went to Jekyll Island, Ga.,” Dooley said. “I told the team when I get back with my high school buddies that’s the first thing we talk about, was Jekyll Island.
“It was miserable, but it was different then,” Dooley continued. “We had six guys in a room, two double beds and a sofa bed and never washed our clothes, never washed our uniforms — think about that. Staph infetions going everywhere. Your pants, after your last practice, you could stand them up.
“These guys have no idea.”
NO PRACTICE: As a reward for a hard week of camp, Dooley decided around 2 p.m. Wednesday to cancel that night’s practice, the last practice for Tennessee at Milligan College and head back to Knoxville a night early.
“It was like third graders on the last day of school,” linebacker Curt Maggitt said after Thursday night’s practice back at Haslem Field. “Everybody was jumping around.”
PRACTICE NOTES: Dooley said tight end Mychael Rivera (knee) and linebacker Herman Lathers (fatigue) would not take part in today’s scrimmage ... Lather’s day off is to heal some “strained muscles” Dooley said ... Defensive back LaDarrell McNiel (hamstring) and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (shoulder) will take part in the scrimmage.