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July 24, 2009

Eric Berry


THE MODERATOR: Eric, if you would like to start with an opening comment.
ERIC BERRY: UT is very excited about this upcoming season. Looking forward to camp also. We've been working very hard in the weight room, on the field as well. We're just looking forward to get this show on the road.

Q. Eric, I know you played quarterback in high school. Could you handle a hundred snaps playing 50 maybe at quarterback in any capacity and then playing defense? Physically could you handle that?
ERIC BERRY: I believe I could. But right now I think I'm helping my team out the most being well and fresh on defense. I think that's where I have the big contribution to my team, is at safety. If they do want to do that, then we'll talk about it. But right now that's where I'm helping them at.

Q. You're in the process of learning this new defense. You're an All-American safety. How much do you have to learn? How much of the defense do you know right now?
ERIC BERRY: I know a lot of the defense right now. It's just kind of tough to get the terminology, the different names of the defenses, getting those things down. Coach Chavis and Monte's defense are very similar, but it's just the terminology in different situations. So that's the tough part about it.

Q. Could you talk about what the LSU guys can look forward to with John Chavis, how he'll motivate and drive them?
ERIC BERRY: They just need to look forward to a great coach. They couldn't have a better defensive coordinator down there. Coach Chavis is a very intense guy. He knows what he wants in a defense and what he wants out of his players. That's what he's gonna expect from them.
But they should have a lot of fun playing for Coach Chavis.

Q. Can you talk about the differences in the defensive scheme from Chavis to Monte, and also you were the leading vote-getter in the media's pre-season All-SEC Team. Does that put any more pressure on you this year to perform even more?
ERIC BERRY: To the Monte and Chavis question, they're both very similar as coaches. As far as their intensity for the game, their knowledge of the game, they were just on two different levels. One was in the NFL, one was in college. But they are very great coaches. Very knowledgeable of the game. Both of them are A-pluses in my book.
As far as the question about having to step my game up, I feel like that's any season. Even if this Heisman stuff wasn't going on, I always look back and see what I can improve from last season. I'm always looking to see what I can make better in my game. I always go in working like I'm coming in like a freshman, trying to earn a spot. That's my mentality. So that hasn't changed.

Q. What do you think of the whole Heisman campaign? Did they talk to you beforehand? Were you all for it?
ERIC BERRY: Just hearing that they wanted to push the campaign for me, I mean, that made me feel very good. I really love the UT staff for doing that for me. I mean, it's been fun. They notified me of it. I was all for it. I do appreciate that from them. It's pretty cool. I like this deal.

Q. What is your best Monte Kiffin story or how can you best describe Monte Kiffin?
ERIC BERRY: I know he got tired of recruiting. Coming from Tampa Bay, the NFL, he really didn't know the recruiting side of college football. He was talking to me about how he was tired of flying. He didn't want to fly. He's like, I just want to get on the grass and coach, E. That's all I want to dol I want to get on the field and coach you guys. I don't want to do any more recruiting.
He was kind of spilling his heart to me. We both really laughed about it. It was really funny.

Q. I'm asking all the players here this week if there was another coach in the SEC that you could see yourself playing for, who might that coach be?
ERIC BERRY: Talking about a coach right now?

Q. Right.
ERIC BERRY: I really can't see one, to be honest with you. Coach Kiffin is all I know right now. Phillip Fulmer and Coach Kiffin. Those two guys. I mean, Coach Kiffin has got our back, no matter what, as you can see. That's all we want out of a coach. That's what we respect. That's what we play for.

Q. What do you think of Lane's colorful collection of comments this off-season?
ERIC BERRY: I mean, we were 5-7 last year. We just thought we were in this thing by ourselves last year, not having anybody on our side. We were 5-7. So when he comes in and says that he has confidence in us, basically, and saying that he has faith in us, I mean, the team went crazy.
Man, he really does believe in us. Just seeing somebody having that type of faith in us after a 5-7 season, who wouldn't want to play for him? Who wouldn't want to put theirself on the line for him?
That's what we're doing right now in this off-season. That's what we're going to do in the season.

Q. Speaking of the Heisman thing, do you take inspiration from Charles Woodson? If you win it, you would be that type of player.
ERIC BERRY: Yeah, that would be cool, being put in the same category as Charles Woodson. But I'd rather be in the same category as USC and Florida with the national championship, the SEC championship. That's a bigger accomplishment in my eyes. That's what we're trying to get done.

Q. Coach Kiffin made a few ripples around the league. Did he kind of tell you that was his plan? He said it was somewhat calculated to get Tennessee's name out there? Did he tell you guys? What was your reaction to it?
ERIC BERRY: He didn't tell us directly, but he told us, Look here, guys, I got your back, no matter what. No matter the situation, no matter what you went through last year, we're not gonna dwell on that. We're just gonna focus on what we need to get done this year.
I guess him saying those comments kind of proved it to us, that, man, he really does have faith in us. It's unfortunate that he stepped on some toes, but it did a lot for our team, how much respect we do have for Lane Kiffin.

Q. What do you think about your little brother committing without even playing high school football yet?
ERIC BERRY: I'm excited about it. I know my brother better than anybody else. Just to hear he wants to come to Tennessee. He loves Tennessee. He already loves Coach Kiffin and the staff. I'm very excited to see him, I guess, carry on the Orange bloodline, see what he has to offer when he comes to UT.

Q. Do you have any personal relationship at all with Taylor Maze? Have you seen him play? Can you compare and contrast your two styles of playing the same position?
ERIC BERRY: I've watched a lot of film on Taylor Maze, to be honest with you, simply for the fact we run the same defense as those guys. I've been learning a lot of things from him. Really been seeing what I could do as far as this system that Coach Kiffin has brought in, seeing what I can learn from him.
I'd like to think that he's a big, I guess you could say, freak or monster, to be 230 and still be that fast, still that athletic. He kind of reminds me of Sean Taylor. He's that type of guy. I kind of like to think of myself as (indiscernible). Those two guys I think are pretty good safeties. We're two good safeties, but he's a great safety in my eyes.

Q. As good as your defense was last year, with the addition of Monte Kiffin, with the struggles offensively, the injuries they've had, is there pressure on you knowing that you may have to carry this team the first third of the season or so?
ERIC BERRY: No, it's no pressure at all. I mean, we're a family. The offense takes care of the defense, and the defense takes care of the offense, no matter what's going on. There's been times where we couldn't stop offenses. Our offense comes in and keeps scoring points. Perfect example was when Erik Ainge was here, we went into four overtimes with Kentucky. They kept fighting and scoring. Likewise, on D where we got to hold the guys, get our offense a chance to score.

Q. Obviously Tennessee has a long history of winning. Last season wasn't so great. Do you feel like you have to have success immediately in order to help Coach Kiffin out and get back to those winning ways in order for him to maybe secure his job there for a long time?
ERIC BERRY: Yeah, I feel like we're the class, the new era of Coach Kiffin. This is the first impression, or whatever, that he has on the nation. We've been working really hard to make him look good to everyone else, you know. He's been working hard, just been in the office grinding, doing all types of work, long hours and everything. We're just trying to make that impression on everyone in the nation, just do it for ourselves, too, to get back to the SEC championship.

End of FastScripts

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