Waggner's redemption

Waggner's redemption

He made the biggest defensive play of Tennessee's Game 4 defeat of UAB, returning an interception for a touchdown. Still, he believes he was more goat than hero last weekend.

"I think I played my worst game Saturday vs. UAB," Vol safety Prentiss Waggner said earlier this week. "I missed probably the most tackles on the team, so this week of practice is going to be real big for me - just getting back to my basic fundamentals of tackling."

Waggner's pick six was just about the only defensive highlight for the Vols, who allowed a mediocre UAB team to pile up 544 yards of total offense. He says the blame rests with the players, not the coaches.

"Basically, the coaches had great play calls on those plays," he said. "It was 10 out of 11 guys doing everything right and one guy doing the wrong thing. There was miscommunication on the back end (in the secondary), and we take full blame for that. We don't put that on the coaches. We ran it so many times in practice, so to mess it up in the game was pretty frustrating."

Waggner is looking for redemption this weekend, and he couldn't pick a better place to find it than Baton Rouge. He grew up in Clinton, La., just 30 miles from Tiger Stadium, site of Saturday's game with No. 12 LSU. That makes this game extra special.

"I think it's going to be a pretty exciting game for me," he said. "I have a lot of friends and family coming to the game. I need over 30 tickets, and I don't know how I'm going to get that done. But it's going to be pretty exciting for me to get back to Baton Rouge and play a football game."

Waggner could've played for his home-state university but he decided proximity wasn't a big factor in his recruiting decision.

"I was recruited pretty hard by LSU my junior and senior year," he recalled. "I attended the home games and I went to the camps. Once I came to Knoxville for an official visit, I liked Knoxville and committed to Tennessee after my official visit."

Waggner conceded that Tiger Stadium is "a pretty exciting place to play," but knows he'll be booed when he takes the field there as an opposing player this Saturday.

"I pretty much expect it," he said. "Being at Tiger Stadium, I know what the fans are like down there. I expect it a little bit - me and Janzen both."

Janzen is fellow safety Janzen Jackson, who hails from Lake Charles, La.

Waggner, Jackson and the rest of the Vols catch a break this week. Tiger Stadium is a lot wilder for night games than day games, and Saturday's kickoff has been set for 2:30 Central.

"Saturday night in Tiger Stadium is pretty hectic," Waggner conceded. "But I've been to the LSU-Florida game - a day game - and it was a pretty loud environment then also."

Having attended a half-dozen or games at Tiger Stadium, Waggner knows to anticipate the level of noise and hostility awaiting the Vols. Tennessee's younger defensive backs have no idea what to expect, so he has been issuing warnings all week.

"I just tell them: 'Don't worry about the fans. Just keep communicating on the back end and play your game, don't be affected by anything going on around you.'"

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