Dallas Does Defense wasn’t exactly a hit last year but it still inspired a sequel. Dallas Does Defense II opened at Haslam Field this week to generally positive reviews.
Here’s the plot: Vincent Dallas, who signed with Tennessee as a wide receiver in 2011, requested a move to cornerback in the spring of 2012. When wideout Da’Rick Rogers was kicked off the team last August, however, Dallas returned to receiver. This week, with cornerback Riyahd Jones’ availability clouded by a lower-leg injury, Dallas is getting another shot at cornerback. Can he handle a starring role this time?
“He definitely has the ability,” Vol safety Byron Moore said. “He’s a natural athlete and he’s willing to learn. So far he’s learning the playbook and trying to get his technique down. I’ve definitely been seeing a lot of good stuff out of Vincent since he’s been over with us (defensive backs).”
With Nyshier Oliver leaving the program and Jones getting injured in the past week, Tennessee found itself down to three scholarship cornerbacks – junior Justin Coleman, plus freshmen Cameron Sutton and Malik Foreman. Dallas has never played corner in a college game but he has practiced at the position probably 30 times. That should help him to adapt to the position but he still has much to learn between now and the Aug. 31 opener versus Austin Peay.
"It's a crash course; everything is happening really, really fast," head coach Butch Jones said following Tuesday’s practice. "It’s a complete change in fundamentals and details. He is showing some instincts for the position. We will know a little more on Vincent as training camp progresses."
Vol coaches already know this much: Dallas is eager to help.
“We love Vincent,” secondary coach Willie Martinez said. “We love Vincent as a staff. He’s an unselfish player, has a great attitude.”
And attitude, Martinez believes, is half the battle for a guy who is changing positions.
“It goes a long way,” the secondary coach said. “The great thing about it is, he has played defensive back before, so he's got awareness.”
Dallas’ experience as a wide receiver should give him insights into the position that will help him now that he’s being called upon to cover wide receivers.
“Any time you play the opposite position – in this case it is the wide receiver and defensive back – there are a lot of similarities and lingo that he hears, so he knows how to attack it,” Martinez said. “That’s very good. He feels comfortable with it.”
Dallas conceded that knowing how a receiver thinks is a plus now that he’s entrusted with defending receivers.
“I've got a lot of knowledge as far as splits and watching the wide receiver’s hips,” he said. “Playing receiver and now playing defensive back, I've clearly got an advantage."
Dallas caught nine passes last fall, averaging 16.6 yards per reception. Still, he appeared to be falling behind some talented freshman wideouts in preseason camp. The sudden move to defense seems to have reinvigorated him.
“It’s been great,” he said. “I’ve just been trying to lock in. My main focus is knowing what I'm doing and learning my techniques.”
As a senior at Cedar Grove High in Ellenwood, Ga., Dallas says recruiters were “half and half” about whether he should play wideout or defensive back in college. He has spent enough practice time at the latter to feel confident he can handle his new job.
“I’m an ex-receiver and an ex-DB,” he said. “I feel like I can do it all.”
For now, all he needs to do is provide depth at an ultra-thin position. If he can accomplish that Dallas Does Defense II should enjoy a productive run.
Vincent Dallas video interview