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Tennessee secondary continues to get high marks for new Vols

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Tennessee’s secondary has been lauded this offseason as more athletic and deeper. Well, we’ll see about that.

“We gave up a couple of big plays today that we were just out of position, and all-in-all, that group, length, athleticism, you’ve heard me say throughout the course of spring ball that I really do like the athletic traits that we’ve got inside of that room,” Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said following the Orange and White Game on Saturday. “Most athletic that we’ve been at all five spots. They’ve made plays, and today we got to find a core group, including guys that we can rotate in, and that will go play at the level we need them to. 

“All-in-all, I really like that group.”

The rehabilitation of the once-struggling secondary will hinge largely upon defensive backs Boo Carter from Chattanooga and Marcus Goree Jr., from Cleveland, Tennessee.

“Both of those guys, you know, love their traits in the building,” Heupel said. “They’re high-level competitive individuals that have grown within the structure of our program, doing the right things outside of the building as well. 

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“They’re intentional in the way that they sit in the meeting rooms, soak up knowledge, and try to grow in their understanding of fundamentals, techniques, and schemes. They’re physical guys, you know, we do tackle sessions. Both those guys are willing to stick their face in it. 

“They have speed, you know, you saw Boo catch some returns today, and, you know, Marcus is a guy, you know, since he got here I think it’s put on 20 plus pounds in a short amount of time,” Heupel said. “I think that speaks to just how focused and intentional they are and what they’re doing every day. So two young guys from here in-state that I absolutely love.”

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Young, athletic or not, the Vols’ secondary will have to depend on their defensive front, which UT coach Tim Banks said should be the best in the country.

“All-in-all, with that group, who they are in the meeting room, how they interact and coach each other on the practice field and in the meeting room too, they have done a great job,” Heupel said. “It’s the experience that’s helping the young guys grow…They’ve been violent. 

“I think they’ve grown with their ability to play with their hands. That’s in the pass rush, but it’s also in their ability to shed off blocks and be able to make plays in the run game too. Our first group today, those guys were limited in the number of plays some of those vets got. All in all, it’s a really good group.” 

Tennessee is deep on the defensive front, but could use help elsewhere. The transfer portal opens on Tuesday.

“At the end of the day, you’re trying to make your roster as good as it can be,” Heupel said. “We’ll go through that process and have exit meetings with our own players. 

“I think the culture piece is extremely important in particular at this time of the year. There’s not a lot of time with them before you get to training camp. They have to be mature guys that you’re bringing into your program too.” 

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