Teague gets a fresh start with new UT cornerbacks coach

photo Tailback Marlin Lane, No. 15, stretches the ball out toward the end zone while Prentiss Waggner, No. 23, and defensive back Marsalis Teague, No. 10, try to stop his advance.

ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. - Tennessee cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley knows nothing of the 2011 version of Marsalis Teague.

Perhaps no other Volunteer player needed a clean slate more than the senior, who's now trying to capitalize on his fresh chance.

"When [Ansley] first came in," Teague said after Wednesday's morning practice on Tennessee's final day at Milligan College, "he told us that. That's what we all needed to hear. It was wide open.

"We're helping each other, it's healthy competition, and it's good for the team."

It might have been the best thing for Teague. Of all the big plays allowed by the Vols' secondary last season, Teague was on the receiving end of most of them. He bounced in and out of the starting lineup, started eight games and finished with 27 tackles and just two pass breakups.

The 5-foot-11, 182-pounder from Paris in West Tennessee had twice that many in the Vols' first scrimmage.

"I didn't watch much tape last year," said Ansley, who came to Tennessee in February. "We tried to come in here with a fresh mind and evaluate all these kids with a clean slate. Obviously he's a guy that's played a lot here [and] was a really good player coming out of high school.

"He's a really good kid, first of all. He's really easy to coach, he takes coaching well ... the good and the bad. He's the model guy that you want to be back there coaching, and he's done well."

Teague and Justin Coleman were the first-team cornerbacks during Wednesday's practice. Earlier in the week, coach Derek Dooley noted Teague's playmaking on deep passes, something with which he struggled mightily last season. One of the few remaining players from Lane Kiffin's singular 2009 signing class, Teague is seeing his confidence grow.

"You just try to build on everything," he said. "You have one good performance, but you can't just get happy and content with that. You keep building, taking it one day at a time, learn from the past, it's in the past, let's go and keep building."

Ansley has noticed Teague playing with more confidence.

"I think it's where it needs to be because he's going out there and competing," he said. "Of course he's going to get beat on some plays because he's going against good people, and of course he's going to make some plays because he's a good player. He's just got to consistently work on his craft and master what he does well and work on what he doesn't do so well.

"Once that light bulb goes off, he's going to a really, really, really good player."

Safety squeeze

Friday's scrimmage presents one final opportunity for coaches to evaluate personnel, but it's also the last chance for players to make statements in their respective depth-chart battles. Safety Byron Moore, who made six tackles in the first scrimmage, is hoping to do just that. He and Brent Brewer are aiming at the starting spot alongside Brian Randolph.

"[I've] just got to keep showing in the production points and keep making plays and keep showing that I can be a real asset back there," Moore said. "That's the main thing I'm looking forward to doing for this next scrimmage. It gives us a boost of confidence back there that they believe in all three of us.

"It's still a competition each day. We're all back there working hard. It's just an ongoing thing that we're going to push into the season."

Safeties coach Josh Conklin said he's hoping to see some of that separation on Friday.

"It's still wide open," he said. "I told all those three of those guys, Rod Wilks included, I view those guys as ones, ones-and-halves if you can say that. We're all vying for positions.

"We want to see some guys separate and say these are going to be the guys in certain defensive packages and different personnel groupings."

Fourth quarter

Dooley said the Vols treated Wednesday -- their final day at Milligan -- as the fourth quarter. At least a dozen players limped into the cafeteria between the day's two practices, and more than that sported a bag of ice taped to some body part. Dooley said the players are getting "a little edgy" with each other having spent so much time together the past six days.

"You've got to learn how to finish the drill," Dooley said. "It's been good for team camaraderie, but at some point, you start getting on each other's nerves. But they're handling it the right way.

"We need to get away for a day or two. I need to see my wife. It's getting a little edgy in that staff room."

Extra points

Linebacker Herman Lathers rested during Wednesday morning's workout as Tennessee continues to manage him. ... Dooley called backup inside linebacker Channing Fugate a "warrior" and said the converted fullback is "going to help us." ... Freshman safety LaDarrell McNeil (hamstring) was in a non-contact jersey, but Dooley wants to see him play full contact. "He's got a lot ability," the coach said. "Really fast twitch, he's got good burst, he's instinctive and now it's a matter of how quickly he can learn this stuff." ... Dooley said speedy freshman tailback Quenshaun Watson, who had a 61-yard scoring run in the first scrimmage, is "showing up a little bit." ... Mychal Rivera (knee sprain) appears to be "running fine," said Dooley, who expects the Vols' starting tight end to be full go by next week. ... Dooley elected to cancel Wednesday's second practice, and the Vols returned to Knoxville. "When Smokey's been hunting the way you want him to hunt," he said, "you throw him a bone."