While cornerback has been hit or miss, safety is arguably one of the most successful positions Tennessee Football has ever enjoyed, and that includes both spots. Here are the 10 best seasons in history by Vols who played that role.
10. Bill Young – 1968
An era that saw Jim Weatherford, Mike Jones and Albert Dorsey have wild success at cornerback also saw Bill Young thrive at safety. While Weatherford was the All-American at the position this year, Young did manage to nab nine interceptions, which is enough to put him on this list.
9. Tim Priest – 1970
Defensive back success from the Doug Dickey days was at safety and cornerback and carried into the Bill Battle years, and none exemplified that more than Tim Priest. In 1969, Priest had seven interceptions, but he followed that up with nine interceptions in 1970.
8. Gibril Wilson – 2003
Starting alongside Rashad Baker, Gibril Wilson was a junior college transfer who immediately made an impact on the Vols. In 2003, the hard-hitting safety had eight tackles for a loss, three sacks and three interceptions. He also broke up 15 passes and had 114 tackles, proving he could do it all.
7. Eddie Brown – 1973
One of the hardest hitting safeties Tennessee Football ever enjoyed, Eddie Brown earned All-American honors in 1973 with five interceptions. Brown was one of the bright spots on defense as he and Condredge Holloway helped slow down a program that was clearly sliding.
6. Roland James – 1979
Bill Bates is the more famous safety now, but Roland James was a bigger star when the two started together in 1979. En route to an All-American campaign, James had three sacks. He only had one pick, a drop-off from his seven in 1978, but he was more effective in 1979 by dictating coverage.
5. Dale Carter – 1990
Despite being more known as a cornerback in the NFL, Dale Carter was a safety when he played for the Vols. Transferring from junior college, Carter was an All-American both years with UT, in 1990 and 1991, but his best year was 1990. He was more famous as a return specialist, but he also had five interceptions on the season.
4. Chris White – 1985
Inserted into the starting lineup due to injuries in the secondary, Chris White exemplified what the 1985 Sugar Vols were all about. He wasn’t in the league of other SEC defensive backs talent-wise, but he made the most of his opportunities, finishing with nine interceptions en route to an All-American campaign and helping UT win the SEC Championship.
3. Bobby Majors – 1970
Out of all the legendary secondary players who were with the Vols from 1968 to 1972, none had a bigger impact than Bobby Majors. The younger brother of Johnny Majors came down with 10 interceptions this year en route to an All-American campaign, helping UT record an amazing 36 picks on the year.
2. Deon Grant – 1999
One of the best safeties to ever do it, Deon Grant came away with nine interceptions starting alongside Fred White in 1999. Grant is most famous for a pick to save the Vols’ win over the Florida Gators in 1998, but his best year was the next season, one in which he earned All-American honors.
1. Eric Berry – 2008
Despite winning the Thorpe Award in 2009, Eric Berry was more of a linebacker that year in Monte Kiffin’s system, and he won it as a lifetime achievement award after getting robbed of it in 2008. However, 2008 was Berry’s best year. In a bad season for Tennessee Football, Berry had seven picks, running back two. He also had eight and a half tackles for a loss and three sacks.