Nov. 4, 2009
Tennessee safety Eric Berry has been named a semifinalist for the second year in a row for two prestigious national awards.
The Fairburn, Ga., junior is one of 12 players recognized for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation's best college defensive back. Berry was a Thorpe finalist last season. And Berry is one of 15 players named for the Chuck Bednarik Award, presented to the outstanding national defensive back of the year. Berry was a Bednarik semifinalist during his All-America campaign of 2008.
Three finalists each for both awards will be named Nov. 23, leading to the announcement of the winner during the nationally telecast Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards Show on Dec. 10.
Berry's role has changed in 2009 under Vols defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who maximizes the junior versatility by playing him in multiple positions. The 5-11, 203-pounder stands second on the team with 57 tackles and leads in special teams stops with seven. He leads the Vols in passes defensed with seven, has five tackles behind the line of scrimmage for third on the team, and also is third with three quarterback hurries.
UT's strong safety has one interception, of Florida's Tim Tebow, for zero return yards, but increased his career fumble return yardage total to 101 with a dazzling 46-yard runback against Georgia.
Berry was the Lott Trophy's National Player of the Week and the CBS Player of the Game for his efforts in the 23-13 loss at Florida on Sept. 19.
2009 Jim Thorpe Award Semifinalists: Javier Arenas, Sr., Alabama; Eric Berry, JR., TENNESSEE; Barry Church, Sr., Toledo; Perrish Cox, Sr., Oklahoma State; Joe Haden, Jr., Florida; Brandon Harris, So., Miami (Fla.); Taylor Mays, Sr., Southern California; Tyler Sash, So., Iowa; Darrell Stuckey, Sr., Kansas; Earl Thomas, So., Texas; Alterraun Verner, Sr., UCLA; Kyle Wilson, Sr., Boise State.
2009 Chuck Bednarik Semifinalists: Pat Angerer, Sr., LB, Iowa; Eric Berry, JR., DB, TENNESSEE; Navorro Bowman, Jr., LB, Penn State; Terrence Cody, Sr., DL, Alabama; Rennie Curran, Jr., LB, Georgia; Jerry Hughes, Sr., DL, Texas Christian; Greg Jones, Jr., LB, Michigan State; Taylor Mays, Sr., DB, Southern California; Rolando McClain, Jr., LB, Alabama; Gerald McCoy, Sr., DL, Oklahoma; Von Miller, Jr., DL, Texas A&M; Eric Norwood, Sr., LB, South Carolina; Brian Price, Jr., DL, UCLA; O'Brien Schofield, Sr., DL, Wisconsin; Brandon Spikes, Sr., LB, Florida; Ndamukong Suh, Sr., DL, Nebraska.
WALKER BACK AT `FULL SPEED' AS VOLS' DEFENSE EXCELS Head coach Lane Kiffin was pleased with the Vols' passing defense, especially one-on-one drills, during Wednesday's practice at Haslam Field.
"It was good to see from one standpoint, especially the pass rush," Kiffin said. "Chris Walker was back out there today, full speed. Our front four rushed really well today, so hopefully that will carry over to the game. As an offense, we need to get better in our pass protection."
Walker, a junior defensive end, missed last week's victory over South Carolina with a back injury. Kiffin said junior defensive end Gerald Williams did not practice, but senior wide receiver Quintin Hancock was also at "full speed." Hancock has not played since injuring his foot against Georgia.