KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee true freshman Nigel Warrior has yet to learn all the ins and outs of the defense, but coordinator Bob Shoop remains high on him.
Warrior has done nothing to discourage Shoop’s belief that he could become as dominant as his father, former UT All-American and NFL All-Pro defensive back Dale Carter.
“In the scrimmage last week, Nigel was dynamic, he was all over the field, he made plays,” Shoop said at Friday’s press briefing at the Ray and Lucy Hand Digital Studio in the UT football building. “He just needs experience, he needs repetitions, he’s gotten so much better.
“He’s very coachable in the meetings, (and) the upper-class guys have tried to help him in every way. He has a very bright future.”
Shoop said Warrior is one of the “six players for three positions” in the secondary — the positions being the two safety spots and nickelback.
Todd Kelly Jr., Micah Abernathy and Rashaan Gaulden are the projected starters at safety and nickel when the Vols are in their 4-2-5 alignment, with Malik Foreman, Warrior and Stephen Griffin the others in the safety/nickel mix.
“Stephen Griffin is another guy if you were putting in a bucket of most improved guys, fundamentally and technique-wise, he has improved a lot,” Shoop said. “Like I said, it’s a long year and to expect guys to play every single snap would be naive.”
Which is why Warrior will make himself known early and often, especially now that he has learned how to handle the sort of no-nonsense, aggressive coaching that takes place at the collegiate level.
“I think through individual conversations he and I have developed a good relationship,” Shoop said. “He recognizes I’m trying to help him be a better player, and he’s responding to aggressive coaching and the leadership of our upper-class guys.
“He just has to embrace the process and continue to get better.”
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee football for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s SEC Country and lives in Knoxville.