Berry 'full of crap'
Janzen Jackson
Editor-in-chief
Posted Aug 10, 2009
Randy Moore


All-America safety Eric Berry is full of enthusiasm, energy and passion for football. He's also full of crap, according to one of his Tennessee teammates.

Berry recently was quoted suggesting that freshman safeties Janzen Jackson and Darren Myles have "a lot more natural ability" than he did as a first-year college player two years ago and will be "incredible" once they master the Vol playbook.

Though flattered by the over-the-top comment, Jackson rolled his eyes when reminded of it during Sunday's preseason Media Day.

"Oh, man, he's full of crap. He's full of crap," Jackson said with a laugh and a shake of his head. "Eric's a good guy. He's real humble, and I couldn't ask for a better tutor. I call him a tutor because he helps me out all the time. It's a pleasure learning under him because he knows everything. And Prentiss Waggner helps me, too, because he knows his stuff."

Berry is Tennessee's top strong safety and Waggner the top free safety. Currently battling for playing time behind Waggner, Jackson also can play nickel back and cornerback.

"Corner is more of a personal matchup ... more of a one-on-one type thing," he said. "You just line up and play, and that's what I like about corner. Free safety is more mental ... knowing where you've got to be. But you get more opportunities to line up and hit people at safety, and I love to hit.

"That's my favorite thing to do. If it came down to making a big hit or scoring a touchdown, the selfish part of me would want to make the big hit."

A native of Lake Charles, La., Jackson arrived at UT earlier this summer carrying just 175 pounds on his 6-0 frame. He has bulked up to 192 since then and looms as a likely Game 1 contributor.

"The key for me is the playbook," he said. "I don't want to sound conceited or anything but I think all of the DBs have the talent, including myself. The biggest thing is: Who knows the playbook the best?"

Jackson says he played "kind of a freelance safety" in high school, adding: "I could just read the ball, and wherever it was going, I'd go there. When I forget what I'm doing here, I just revert back to that."

Playing safety at the college level is considerably more complicated. In fact, the mental workload can be daunting.

"The hardest thing is having to know what EVERYBODY on the defense is doing, so you can help them to line up," Jackson said. "Free safety is basically the quarterback of the defense. You've got to make all of the calls and all of the checks, and you've got to know all of the signals from the sidelines."

Because he is still learning his assignments, Jackson makes the usual freshman mistakes. He generally managed to overcome them in Saturday's first preseason scrimmage, however.

"I did OK," he said. "I could've done better if I'd lined up in the right spots all the time but I think I did pretty good. If you don't know where you're supposed to be, just play hard and something good will happen."

Although he studies his playbook and pays attention in team meetings, Jackson says he does most of his learning on the run.

"I'm the type of person that has to see it on the field," he said. "I can't just get in the playbook because it's different when you see it on paper than when you see it on the field."

Once he is comfortable with the playbook, there will be no stopping him. He may not be as gifted as Eric Berry suggests but Jackson has the athleticism to be a significant contributor in Year 1.

"I just have to learn the playbook," he said. "I know I'm going to get on the field. I HAVE to."

Although he still has a steep learning curve ahead of him, Jackson is enjoying himself fully. And that's vitally important to him.

"I'm trying to go out and have fun," he said. "When you get too caught up in what you've got to do, you tend to get away from having fun playing the game.

"I think you make the most plays when you're having fun."


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