KNOXVILLE — After a couple of days on the sideline with a tweaked hamstring, Tennessee safety Byron Moore is back on the practice field gearing up for his senior season.
He's still not focused on whether or not he'll earn a starting spot over LaDarrell McNeil, though.
Both players missed some time earlier this preseason, but one of the Volunteers' more intriguing August competitions is back under way.
"We're not even really looking at the groups," Moore said following Tuesday afternoon's practice. "They just throw us in there. We all play. Everybody's getting reps, so we're not even worried about who's first or who's second right now.
"It's just what group is in there at this moment and what the [secondary] coach wants in there."
In the past few practices, that's been Moore with the first-team defense. McNeil worked there some earlier in training camp. The two started the final seven games of last season alongside each other after Brian Randolph's injury.
Butch Jones said he'd like to see more consistency from both players.
"With so much in our defense, we rely on our safeties to make tackles," the first-year head coach said. "It's a safety-activated defense, and not only do they have to cover one on one, they have to be great tacklers. We've worked tackling extremely hard the last two days: coming to balance, having a great base, running your feet, keeping your head up."
Moore, who led the Vols with five interceptions in 2012, and McNeil, a sophomore, were two of Tennessee's top five tacklers last season.
"I think we've got a lot of good guys back there with good character and guys that come in every day willing to learn the technique and willing to learn the defense," Moore said of the Vols' secondary. "It just comes down to which group is going to play the best together. We're going to need everybody in that room, so everybody has to be ready to go in at any time."
Vincent Dallas showed some rust on his second day at cornerback after moving from receiver on Monday. During a team period, receiver Devrin Young hurdled Dallas on the way to the end zone on a reverse. Later, secondary coach Willie Martinez stopped to critique Dallas' tackling form and made him go through the drill a second consecutive time.
"We're kind of force-feeding him," Jones said. "The rest of this week is really big for his development. Then we'll make a decision of how he can best help this football team win.
"It is a crash course, and everything is happening really, really, really fast. It's a complete change in fundamentals, in details, but still, at the end of the day, it's all about body position and competitive makeup. He's shown some instincts for the position."
Dallas played defensive back all of spring practice and most of training camp last year, which made him an obvious choice when Jones and the Vols determined someone needed to move there.
"I just told him I'm a team player," Dallas said, "and whatever he needs me to do, I'm going to do it."
That could change again soon.
"It's a hard task to do, and I probably think most guys wouldn't be wanting to do it," Moore said. "He's not a selfish guy at all. As soon as the coaches brought the idea to him, he was ready to go and didn't think twice about it, and I definitely applaud him for that."
Cornerback Riyahd Jones' status is "undergoing further evaluation" for a leg injury, Coach Jones said at practice. The junior college transfer was on crutches during Monday's practices, but he wasn't using them while he watched Tuesday.
Redshirt freshman walk-on cornerback Michael Williams, who's worked with the first- and second-team defense this preseason, is expected to return "in a couple days" from a shoulder injury, Coach Jones said. Defensive tackle Mo Couch (calf) was out of his walking boot but was very limited Tuesday. Freshman receiver Paul Harris (leg) also remains out.
Vols land Lambert
Georgia Military College defensive lineman DaVonte Lambert announced his commitment to Tennessee via his Twitter page late Tuesday morning. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound four-star prospect, who listed Florida and Auburn as his other finalists, is a big addition to the Vols' 2014 class because of the need up front defensively, where six seniors are slated to depart after this season. According to 247Sports, Lambert is the fourth-rated junior college prospect in the country.
Tennessee's class is back to 24 commitments after three-star Florida athlete Brandon Powell flipped his pledge from the Vols to Miami earlier this month.
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 ...
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