Best of the decade: safeties

Best of the decade: safeties

This is the 14th in a series of articles ranking Tennessee's best players of the decade 2000-2009. Today's focus: Safeties.

1. ERIC BERRY: Seriously, who else could it be? He started every game during the three years he was on campus (2007, 2008, 2009). A two-time team captain, he was a consensus first-team All-American as a sophomore and junior. He recorded 245 career tackles, 17 career pass breakups and 14 career interceptions. His 494 interception-return yards rank second in NCAA history. He was Tennessee's best pass defender AND its best run stopper the past two years. The 5-11, 205-pounder was selected by Kansas City with the fifth pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and almost certainly will dominate at that level, as well.

2. JASON ALLEN: Although he started at cornerback in two of his last three college seasons (2003 and 2005), he played his best football as the Vols' No. 1 free safety in 2004. The 6-2, 205-pounder was a team captain in '04 and '05, earning All-SEC recognition in '04. Allen recorded 57 tackles and 11 pass breakups in '03, then led the SEC with 123 tackles in '04. He played in just five games as a senior due to a dislocated hip but still was selected by the Miami Dolphins with the 16th pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. His career numbers at UT include 220 tackles, 18 pass breakups and 4 interceptions.

3. GIBRIL WILSON: This talented junior college transfer started in 2002 and 2003, providing solid pass defense and outstanding run support. The 6-0, 195-pounder registered 82 tackles and 5 pass breakups as a junior, then recorded 114 tackles, 12 PBU and 3 interceptions as a senior. Excelling at the safety blitz, he recorded 5.5 sacks in his two years on The Hill. He has gone on to a solid NFL career.

4. JULIAN BATTLE: Another juco transfer, this 6-3, 210-pounder started at strong safety in 2001 and at cornerback in 2002. Despite his size, he was the Vols' best one-on-one pass defender that season. Battle recorded 60 tackles, 9 pass breakups and 2 interceptions as a junior, then earned All-SEC recognition by registering 72 stops, 4 PBU and an interception as a senior. He was a third-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft and spent four years in The League.

5. RASHAD BAKER: A four-year starter (2000-2003) in an era of secondary desperation, this converted wide receiver earned All-SEC honors as a junior in '02 and served as a team captain in '03. The 5-11, 190-pounder was consistent - recording 71 stops, 7 pass breakups and 4 interceptions as a sophomore, 60 stops, 7 PBU and 5 interceptions as a junior, then 71 stops and 5 PBU as a senior. He finished his college career with 233 tackles, 21 PBU and 11 interceptions. He was not picked in the 2004 NFL Draft but has spent parts of the past five years with five pro teams.

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