Vols face tall challenge against Memphis

Vols face tall challenge against Memphis

November 5th, 2009 by Wes Rucker in Sports - College

Staff Photo by Angela Lewis Eric Berry is part of the Vols's secondary.

Staff Photo by Angela Lewis Eric Berry...

KNOXVILLE -- At a sturdy 6-foot-4, senior star Duke Calhoun is Memphis's second tallest wide receiver.

And he's five inches shorter than his tallest teammate.

Calhoun and 6-9 Carlos Singleton represent a tall task for Tennessee's defense this week, and they have the Volunteers' full attention.

"A 6-8 or 6-9 receiver? That's just wrong, man," UT senior weakside linebacker Rico McCoy said Wednesday. "And they've got a whole roster of guys who are like 6-4, 6-5. They've got some talent, man."

Reserves Marcus Rucker and Steven Joachim also stand at 6-4, while tight ends Deven Onarheim and DajLeon Farr are 6-8 and 6-6, giving Memphis one of the nation's tallest corps of pass catchers.

"I've just been watching film recently, and the guy that really stuck out to me was Calhoun," UT junior All-America defensive back Eric Berry said. "He's a very explosive player -- very fast, very tall, probably one of the best wide receivers that we're going to face this year.

"That team has a lot of talent. We watched their offense yesterday in meetings, and we can't go in there thinking, 'Oh, this is a Memphis team that isn't SEC.' We've got to make sure that we're ready to play, because they do have a lot of talent, and they do have some good coaching."

UT has fared well all season against big receivers, though, including Georgia's A.J. Green, Alabama's Julio Jones and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery.

The Vols have certain gotten enough practice against size, first-year head coach Lane Kiffin said with his typical smirk.

"We've been facing tall guys all year long; it feels like everybody's got them but us," Kiffin said. "We've been going against it week in and week out and have done a great job for the most part, but this week will be another big test."

UT's secondary doesn't feature a starter taller than 6-1, though newly-promoted nickel cornerback Brent Vinson is 6-2. Cornerback Dennis Rogan and Eric Berry are listed at 5-10 and 5-11.

"What you have to do is just make sure you're all right with you're technique, and make sure you're focused on what you've been coached on all throughout the week and the whole season," Berry said. "And if you go up for the ball, make sure you come down with it and they don't. That's the biggest thing.

"We have a very good service team. We have a wide receiver that's about 6-4 or 6-5, and Dennis Rogan and Art Evans go up against him every day in practice, and he's very physical and very tall. That's really been helping them guard the bigger wide receivers."

BERRY GOOD ATTITUDE

Berry said he wasn't concerned about his inability to surpass former Florida State star Terrell Buckley for the NCAA's career interception return yardage record. Berry entered the season 15 yards from the record and hasn't had many opportunities to break it, thanks mostly to quarterbacks throwing away from him.

"We're doing good right now, as far as winning games," Berry said. "The offense is rolling, the defense is doing good, so I'm just going to keep sitting back and playing my role. I'm pretty sure opportunities will come my way, because we have a few more games left, but I can't let that get into my head.

"I'm just going to keep playing my game and doing what I've been doing."

Berry said he's grading out weekly higher than he did last season, which was one of the top goals he set for himself this summer, so he's far from displeased with his performance.

"Other guys are making big plays, and we're winning more games now than we did last year or earlier this year, so I really have no reason to be frustrated," Berry said. "I'm feeling better, actually, because winning as a team is all that really matters."

MIAs

Several injured Vols returned to practice Wednesday, including junior defensive end Chris Walker (lower back), junior kicker Daniel Lincoln (quad) and freshman defensive end Marlon Walls (high ankle sprain).

Walls said trainers initially told him he'd miss two weeks after suffering his injury Saturday night against South Carolina.

"I told them, 'More like two days,'" Walls said. "And I was right."

Lincoln said he hopes to kick against Memphis, but he said that would ultimately be the coaches' decision.

WAITING ON SLIVE

Asked Wednesday night whether Florida coach Urban Meyer should be punished by the SEC after saying officials missed a late-hit on Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, Kiffin smirked and said, "We'll have to see."

League commissioner Mike Slive recently passed new rules stating a zero-tolerance policy for coaches commenting on officials.

Asked whether he took Slive's ruling last week to indicate a true, zero-tolerance policy, Kiffin simply said, "You guys got the same memo I got."

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