KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Demetrice Morley has waited an extra-long time to make his next hit as a Tennessee safety.
After serving a year suspension, the junior has returned to anchor what is potentially one of the best secondaries in the country with the help of star safety Eric Berry.
``I can't wait. I feel anxious. I feel like a little kid again,'' Morley said.
The defensive backs were the one of the biggest concerns entering the 2007 season and had a rough start in outings at California and Florida before improving tremendously.
Injuries forced the Vols to play a number of people at cornerback. This season, seniors DeAngelo Willingham and Antonio Gaines, junior Marsalous Johnson, sophomores Dennis Rogan and Brent Vinson and even freshman Art Evans could see playing time.
Willingham and Rogan are projected to start at cornerback Monday against UCLA. Vinson will serve a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules.
``Obviously it's a more experienced secondary, probably a more confident secondary,'' defensive backs coach Larry Slade said. ``When you go out there and break in a lot of new guys ... they're learning on the job.''
That's exactly what Berry, Willingham, Vinson and Rogan did last season after Johnson and Gaines had season-ending injuries early in the season.
Now they don't have to spend so much effort during a game thinking about different coverage packages and schemes. It's automatic now.
``We knew what we had last year. We knew the situation. I didn't make any excuses then. I won't make any excuses now,'' defensive coordinator John Chavis said. ``We feel a lot better about where we are right now.''
YOUTH MOVEMENT: The evidence of No. 10 Auburn's youth movement is all over the depth chart - from the demotion of senior receiver Robert Dunn to the abundance of freshmen as backups in the secondary.
The Tigers have 10 sophomores listed as starters and five freshmen listed as second-teamers. All four secondary positions have freshmen listed on the depth chart.
The biggest surprise was Dunn's spot as a fourth-team inside receiver, behind sophomores Mario Fannin and Terrell Zachery and second-team freshman Darvin Adams. Tuberville said Dunn's status sends a message that no job is safe even for veterans.
``On offense he hasn't performed to his abilities and we've got a lot of players there in that position,'' Tuberville said. ``The older players can find out very quickly how important it is to be consistent. You can't rest on experience, you can't rest on, 'Hey, I've been here.' You better play and you better perform.''
WELCOME BACK: LSU coach Les Miles is eager to get defensive tackle Charles Alexander back in a game for the first time since he went down with a right knee injury early in the 2007 season.
Alexander arrived at camp in early August fully recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that kept him out of 11 games in 2007 and limited him during spring practice. But just a few days into fall practices, he hurt his left hamstring and sat out most of the past three weeks.
``Frankly, we think that he has the potential to be one of the more dominant defensive linemen in the country,'' Miles said. ``We really have to get him on the field and get him healthy before that starts showing. I think his playing in this game is important to him so that he can get on board and get as comfortable playing week after week as any of the guys on the team.''
A senior from Breaux Bridge, La., Alexander played in one game in 2005, 12 games in 2006 and started three games last season before his knee injury.
Early this week, Alexander returned to practice and LSU's depth chart lists him as a starter.
LSU opens its season - and the defense of its national title - Saturday against Appalachian State in Tiger Stadium, and Miles is optimistic that Alexander will play.
STATUS CHECK: The status of Mississippi State left tackle Derek Sherrod is unclear as Saturday's opener at Louisiana Tech approaches.
The 6-foot-5, 298-pound sophomore could miss the rest of practice this week with a foot infection and might not be available when the team travels to Ruston.
``The doctors tell me there's a chance,'' coach Sylvester Croom said. ``The doctors tell me it's going to have a lot to do with his pain tolerance. We're just in a wait-and-see mode right now.''
Sherrod will be a key to Mississippi State's success on the offensive line this season. The team lost all-Southeastern Conference candidate Mike Brown in the offseason after he fired a gun on campus.
So Sherrod moved to left tackle from the right side. If he can't play, starting right tackle Mark Melichar will have to move over, too. That would leave the Mississippi State offensive line thin on the edges.
LAYING LOW: Alabama receiver Mike McCoy could easily be wondering what he has to do to get a little attention.
The Tide's top returning receiver was overshadowed by DJ Hall last season, and now freshman Julio Jones is grabbing most of the attention. At a position that often includes some flamboyant - even cocky - players, McCoy takes the lack of attention in stride.
``It doesn't bother me at all,'' he said after politely fielding a half-dozen questions about Jones.
McCoy figures to be a leading candidate to become John Parker Wilson's go-to receiver this season after getting 28 catches last season and waving farewell to three more of the Crimson Tide's top receivers.
He does have one key ingredient: A comfort zone with Wilson.
``Mike's got great athleticism. He can make the moves,'' Wilson said. ``I'm just so comfortable throwing to Mike. We've been throwing for a couple years now. He's always going to be in the right spot. I'm very confident in his routes and where he's going to be.''
AP Sports Writers John Zenor, Brett Martel and Chris Talbott contributed to this report.

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