By: Brad Pope
Janzen Jackson is back with the Vols.
Tennessee fans are tired of hearing that their team has talent but lacks depth and experience. Unfortunately, that is the case for UT football at the moment and there is really nothing that can fix this but time. However, one step in becoming more experienced and having more depth came on Thursday when second-team All-SEC safety Janzen Jackson returned to classes at Tennessee.
Jackson returned to Tennessee after taking the spring semester off to deal with “personal issues”. He remained in Knoxville over that time and worked part time at the university while getting his life back on track. Jackson has had a history of off the field problems and Vol Head Coach Derek Dooley thought it would be best if he took some time off to re-evaluate his priorities.
Jackson made 69 tackles and tied for the team lead with five interceptions in 2010. He has played in 23 games in two seasons for the Vols, including 22 starts, and earned Second Team Coaches’ All-SEC honors last season.
With Jackson returning, the secondary is the deepest, most talented part of the Volunteer defense. Jackson will play safety alongside Brent Brewer, who also started last season at the safety position. This will allow Bednarik Award candidate Prentiss Waggner to move back to cornerback, where he flourished last season, and will probably start alongside highly talented JUCO CB Byron Moore, a four star transfer that started his career at USC.
Depth should not be an issue in the secondary as Marsalis Teague, Eric Gordon, and Art Evans will be in the mix as well. All of these guys have had experience in the SEC and Defensive Coordinator Justin Wilcox will finally be able to use more of his infamous 4-2-5 defense that he was unable to use a year ago due to lack of bodies.
Here is a look at my 2011 SEC Secondary Rankings:
Mark Barron is a well-known name across the SEC. Photo courtesy ISM, Inc.
1. Alabama: The Tide will have one of the best set of defensive backs in the country. Safeties Robert Lester and Mark Barron are two of the top five safeties in the SEC and corners Dre Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie are game changers at cornerback.
2. LSU: Obviously losing Patrick Peterson would hurt any team but the Tigers are still loaded in the secondary. Cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu both could end up being All-SEC type players, and Brandon Taylor is one of the better safeties in the conference.
3. Arkansas: Safety Tramain Thomas leads the way for the Hogs as reports have said he has looked very impressive in the spring. They are a very talented group with only lack of experience getting in their way of being very good.
4. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs return five players that started at some point in the secondary last season. Charles Mitchell finds his way all over the field and is the team’s best tackler at the safety spot.
5. Tennessee: The return of Janzen Jackson pretty much put Tennessee in this position. Jackson is near the top in the SEC at safety and his counterpart Brent Brewer has a year under his belt in the SEC. JUCO transfer Byron Moore will make noise early at corner, along with Bednarik Award candidate Prentiss Waggner.
6. South Carolina: Stephon Gilmore is a great cover corner and Akeem Auguste moves back to corner after playing safety last year. They are one of the better corner tandems in the SEC. D.J. Swearinger had a good spring at safety and is poised for a breakout season.
7. Georgia: Georgia has a talented group in the secondary, led by Junior Safety Bacarri Rambo. Rambo had a great freshman year in 2009 but was inconsistent last season. If he gets back to freshman form they could be really talented.
8. Florida: It will be hard to replace dismissed All-SEC corner Janoris Jenkins. Florida will have to deal with a lot of young and inexperience in the secondary this season.
9. Vanderbilt: Secondary is the strongest part of Vandy’s team. Senior cornerback Casey Hayward was a second team All-SEC player in 2010.
10. Kentucky: Seniors Randall Burden and Anthony Mosley are back at cornerback for the Wildcats. Experience will not be an issue as all four starters are upperclassmen but consistence will be the biggest problem.
11. Auburn: Senior Safety Michael McNeil was arrested for robbery and dismissed this spring. McNeil was supposed to be one of the better defensive players in 2011 for the Tigers and now there is a lot of uncertainty as to who will fill his role.
12. Ole Miss: The Rebel secondary struggled last year to stop any passing attacks. With new defensive backs coach Keith Burns it will be interesting to see what changes are made in 2011.
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