August 19, 2012
Teague ready to toe line for Vols
It's no secret that the 2011 season was a struggle for now-senior defensive back Marsalis Teague. Teague started 8 games like he did the previous year, but his numbers were not nearly the same. The Paris, Tenn., native had 27 tackles as a junior, 19 less than the previous year. His two pass deflections were six less than in 2010.
As the senior prepares to begin his final campaign a week from Friday in the Georgia Dome against N.C. State, he will do so in a different place mentally than he ever was in 2011.
"I feel way better," Teague said. "It's amazing what a year can do for you in terms of how you feel out there. It feels good to be out there again moving around again and playing better.
"I feel good with all the schemes that we are doing. The way we look against each other. I'm feeling really good."
Teague's confidence was bolstered with a six-tackle, four-pass break-up performance in the Vols' first scrimmage of the pre-season. But the biggest difference according to Teague is that it doesn't hurt when he runs like it has the last couple of years with a nagging toe injury.
"Health is one of the main reasons," Teague said. "That's really in any sport and any position. The better you feel out there health wise the better you are naturally going to feel about your game. But it's also because of how hard we have worked. In the off-season, I was healthy and really worked to be the best player I can be. The techniques the coaches have taught me has really helped me. Coach (Derrick) Ansley is a great coach and he has taught me a lot."
Ansley said he likes how Teague has progressed this pre-season, noting that the senior's understanding of his game has been a reason for his improvement.
"He's been steady. He knows his limitations and he knows what his strengths are. He's comfortable with those," Ansley explained. "Any time you get a kid that's comfortable and knows what he knows to work on and knows what he needs to do well that's when you see a guy continue to progress. If you live in denial and don't know what you can't do and you try to know the positions that's when you get in trouble. We're working on his weaknesses and we're developing his strengths every day."
That development is also a result of who Teague and the rest of the defensive backs battle every day in the big three, Justin Hunter, Da'Rick Rogers and Cordarrelle Patterson.
"It's fun competing against them everyday because they are so talented and they have a very good accurate quarterback throwing them the ball," Teague said. "It's good for us. They have a chemistry. They are on the same page all the time. Going against them is great for us. If you can go out there and match up against those guys then you feel like you can pretty much do good against anyone in the country."
Where Teague fits in the line up in two weeks is still up in the air. How much of a factor he will be remains an unknown. It's not something that Teague is worried about. He's just happy to be competing at full strength something he has felt in some time.
"I just am trying to take it one day at a time continuing to improve and focus on getting better," Teague said. "If the opener comes and I'm in the starting line up then I'm in the starting line up. Right now, that's not something that I'm thinking about. I'm just going out there everyday competing and having fun this last year."
Redshirt junior defensive back Naz Oliver has wedged himself into the two-deep rotation in the Vols' ever-evolving secondary.
But it might be because of Oliver's willingness to go all-out on special teams that he's competing in the defensive backfield. The Jersey City, N.J., native approached coach Derek Dooley one day on the practice field and pleaded for any opportunity.
"I just told coach Dooley, 'Get me on anything. I'll do anything.' I pulled him aside in practice," Oliver recalled, "and I said 'Coach Dooley, get me on some special teams. I just want to play.' He said he was going to look at film, evaluate me and get me on some teams."
After missing the 2010 and 2011 seasons with ACL and wrist injuries, respectively, Oliver is trying to seize upon a return to health on the field.
"I felt like I came out and competed. This is my first time being healthy in camp in a while," said Oliver, who signed with the Vols rather than Notre Dame under former coach Lane Kiffin.
"I'm just happy being out here competing again. Just being out here with my team and being able to play a season. I feel like a little kid in the candy shop again. I don't know, I'm just excited.
"I was just trying to suck it up, not quit. Just keep in my mind that everything's going to be alright, there's going to be light at the end of the tunnel. I just stuck with it, and here we are today."
Oliver believes the key for him is simply playing as fast and not getting bogged down when mistakes occur.
"Just be aggressive, just come out here. You're going to make mistakes; everybody is going to make mistakes," said the 5-foot-10, 179-pounder. "But just play fast and be a bulldog out there, a little pitbull. That's what I pride myself on, aggressiveness."
...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now for a FREE Trial