KNOXVILLE — With a full season of learning how to play cornerback on the fly under his belt, Marsalis Teague probably won't be new to much of anything in the future.
Given how late Tennessee moved Teague from receiver and a lingering injury that slowed him during the latter half of last season, though, he's still discovering his need for a better understanding of the position.
“You can never learn too much,” the 5-foot-10, 177-pound rising junior said on Saturday afternoon after the Volunteers' second spring scrimmage. “I just try to take everything in, embrace it slowly and try to let my game come to me.”
Teague spent last spring trying to build on a successful freshman season as a receiver, catching a pair of passes in last year's Orange and White game. But the Vols had a pair of productive seniors, a duo of talented freshmen at receiver and a need at corner, prompting the switch at the onset of preseason camp last August.
He proceeded to start eight of the 11 games in which he played, putting together a solid season, albeit quietly. Teague didn't have any interceptions and averaged four tackles per game, but he wasn't necessarily making noticeable mistakes on a consistent basis, either.
“Obviously making the switch so late right before we started training camp,” defensive backs coach Terry Joseph said, “it was almost a developmental year for him.”
That development hit a bit of a snag when Teague suffered a turf toe injury against Alabama in October, an injury that forced him to miss two games and limited him in two more. Though he bounced back with a career high 11-tackle performance in the regular-season finale against Kentucky, the injury was still there.
“The toe hindered his progress a little bit,” Joseph said. “Really now it's still not fully healed, but he's pushing through. He's coming along well. We need him become more of a leader back there.”
Teague, who's been a first-team cornerback along with Anthony Anderson throughout spring, admitted he's trying to fine-tune his skills and searching for any and every way to get better while trying to take on that leadership role.
“It's just getting more knowledge of the playbook and understanding more,” he said. “Last year was focused more on cornerback, and now I'm trying to enhance and trying to learn anything I can and really try to be vocal leader out there for us.”
“He's our best corner,” UT coach Derek Dooley said. “He's been pretty dependable, and I think the more reps he gets, the more confidence he'll get, the more aggressive he'll play and the better he'll play.”
Like the rest of the Vols' secondary on campus this spring, Teague knows there's seven or eight freshmen defensive backs arriving over the course of the summer. And though Teague's experience and ability might indicate his job is one of the safer ones, don't expect him to look at it in that way.
“Even once you feel like you know it all,” he said, “You never really do. You can never know too much. The more you know, it's better for you. Once you get to feeling you can't learn anything, that's when you shut down and get too complacent. No one on our team can allow that.”
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...