KNOXVILLE — Lane Kiffin thinks Eric Berry merits serious consideration for the Heisman Trophy. At the same time, the Tennessee coach knows the deck is stacked for his star defensive back to earn such status.
“I think with the defensive players, you’ve got to have a little luck in two things,” Kiffin said this week. “One, your team needs to do well, because it brings more attention. And two, the ball needs to go your way.
“He’s going to have to have some numbers as far as interceptions, not just tackles. Unfortunately he’s only had really one ball, which he picked off Tim in the Florida game. You’ve got to have some luck, as opposed to on offense.”
Kiffin said “explosion and preparation” are the reasons for Berry’s success.
“He’s so explosive on contact, he really coils and snaps really quick,” Kiffin said, adding “He’s great in the classroom studying, preparing, knowing all the tips and reminders and it allows him to play faster.”
Berry currently leads the Vols with 31 tackles, the sixth-highest tackle total in the Southeastern Conference.
The promotional campaign started by Tennessee to market Berry as a candidate for the Heisman Trophy has gone quiet as of late. A current poll of experts on ESPN has the Volunteers’ consensus All-America safety listed as an also-ran in the current balloting, with Florida quarterback and former Heisman winner Tim Tebow at the top of the current list.
REST FOR THE WEARY: Chronic knee problems have limited Wes Brown’s playing time in the past two seasons, but he’d always made it onto the field.
Until last Saturday’s game against Ohio. Brown was held out of the Vols’ 34-23 win over the Bobcats. It marked the first time Brown did not play in a UT game since the 2005 season, in which the Athens, Ala., native redshirted.
“It was tough, man,” Brown said of not playing. “They told me they were going to hold me out and I tried to plead my case to them but you know that isn’t going to do much good.”
Brown underwent operations on both knees during the offseason, and the problem has been exacerbated by his position change from defensive end to tackle. The new position brings more contact, and Brown also gained weight to play inside, thus placing more strain on those bad knees.
While the Vols probably will add Brown back to the fold up front, they might not have defensive end Chris Walker (back) available. After Thursday’s practice, Kiffin said the team would “wait and see” about Walker’s availability against Auburn Saturday (7:45 p.m., ESPN).
Offensive guard Vlad Richard (knee) .is doubtful to play Saturday.
SPREAD THE WEALTH: Jonathan Crompton completed passes to nine different receivers during the win over Ohio, but cautioned that might not be part of the regular game plan going forward.
“We’re not trying to say, ‘I’m throwing to this many receivers this week,’” Crompton said. “Depending on the game and the reads and the routes, it depends on who gets the ball.”
Crompton did note one advantage from using so many different targets in one contest.
“It keeps fresh legs in there,” the fifth-year senior observed.
MIDDLE MAN: Coaches confirmed after Thursday’s workout that Savion Frazier will start at middle linebacker for the Vols this week, in the absence of the injured Nick Reveiz.
Frazier previously has been playing as the backup weakside linebacker behind Rico McCoy.
The middle linebacker is a vital position in Monte Kiffin’s defensive scheme.
“He’s the quarterback of the defense, gets everybody lined up, gives you the call and changes the call,” Brown said of what Reveiz did at the position for UT.
The elder Kiffin had high praise for Reveiz on Thursday.
“This guy is going to be an All-American if we can get that knee ready,” Monte Kiffin told reporters in Knoxville.