Walk-ons step up after Vols fall down

Shane Reveiz latest to fill in for injured

Lane Kiffin hesitated for about a millisecond when asked if he'd ever coached a team so dependent on walk-ons.

"I've never been around it," the first-year Tennessee coach said flatly.

Of course, Kiffin is partly to blame. His physical practices and strict discipline policy have created plenty of attrition on UT's roster.

Fans, however, aren't complaining and Kiffin isn't apologizing. Such turnover is expected when rebuilding a program.

Injuries have also created opportunities for players that came to UT without a scholarship.

Former coach Phillip Fulmer is also partly responsible. UT's recent recruiting hasn't consistently proven worthy of a perennial SEC power, according to most recruiting rankings. And even highly ranked classes under Fulmer, such as 2005, didn't pan out.

David Blackburn, UT's senior associate athletic director for administration and football operations, offered some historical perspective. He worked in football operations from 1993-2003 and rejoined the department shortly after Kiffin was hired.

"Walk-ons have always played a very important role in what we do, but this is a year where they've really stepped up and played critical roles," Blackburn said. "I can't remember a year in a number of years where we've had walk-ons do what they've done this year."

The impact by walk-ons this season might actually be unprecedented in the modern era of UT football. Before the NCAA's scholarship reductions of the early 1990s, walk-ons were rarely needed. Since then, the Vols have been stocked with talent more often than not.

Walk-ons and former walk-ons are scattered throughout UT's two-deep depth chart. Some have even landed starting positions.

"Some guys you've got to get the program out to find their name and who they are," Kiffin said.

Programs weren't as necessary when the season began. Two overachievers, middle linebacker Nick Reveiz and center Cody Sullins, found starting jobs early - but it was easy to understand why.

Both were undersized, but had great work ethic and surprisingly good athleticism, even though they came to UT without scholarships.

Reveiz was well respected by Fulmer's staff and rewarded with a scholarship last year. He nailed down the starting job at middle linebacker in preseason before a torn ACL ended his season after four starts.

Sullins also garnered praise before Kiffin arrived. Then during preseason camp, he seized the starting center position, a feat made easier when former starter Josh McNeil was diagnosed with a serious knee injury.

Since then, Sullins has started every game at center.

Their off-season ascension surely sent a message to the others toiling without a scholarship.

"I think it is refreshing for guys like that," Kiffin said of the coaching turnover. "Anytime there's change, I think walk-ons in general get refreshed, especially with our philosophy of coming in and we don't care whether you're on scholarship or how many stars you were or any of that.

"We're going to play the best players. A number of them have taken advantage of that."

Another Sullins certainly did. Cory Sullins followed in his twin brother's footsteps when senior starter Vladimir Richard went down with a knee and Achilles tendon injury. Sullins has started seven games at offensive guard.

Now, Sullins is holding off Richard, who is healthy enough to practice. Both Sullins have been rewarded with scholarships.

There's another sibling competing for playing time as well. Shane Reveiz, Nick's younger brother, should play extensively Saturday against Vanderbilt (TV: ESPNU, 7 p.m.).

He has seen extensive snaps with the first team this week, filling in for weakside linebacker Rico McCoy (knee) and strongside linebacker LaMarcus Thompson (stinger).

"I feel ready; I definitely do," said Reveiz, a Farragut High School graduate who has played in nine games this season, mostly on kickoff return. "A lot of people may get real nervous when you get an opportunity like this, but every opportunity I get I try to capitalize on, because I'm just a walk-on. I'm trying to earn a role on this team."

He's not the only one. Tyler Wolf played safety in UT's dime package last week when Janzen Jackson was unavailable after the freshman was arrested for attempted armed robbery.

Wolf had already played extensively on special teams, where most walk-ons first find playing time.

Walk-ons Sam Edgmon and Cory Eichholtz have played on kickoff returns and kickoff coverage, respectively. Former walk-on Derrick Furlow, who was put on scholarship by Fulmer, has played in nine games, mostly on special teams.

Bram Cannon is UT's holder and Morgan Cox snaps for field goals. Both are former walk-ons that have earned scholarships.

Another special teams walk-on has added responsibility this week. Sophomore Jake Storey, who has played in six games on kickoff return, is UT's second-team middle linebacker.

"Being a walk-on, you've got to capitalize on every chance you get," Reveiz said. "Obviously, they're going to give the people they brought in, the people that they invested money in chances, but when I get my shot I've got to capitalize."

Get your programs ready.

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Comments » 35

flatoutvol writes:

Wolf and Eicholtz have made several tackles on kickoff coverage this season. True Volunteers, these two.

IslandVol writes:

Sad statement on how shallow Fulmer left the talent pool. Pulling for these young men though, hope they make the most of their opportunity.

KFDLaw writes:

We need a good walk on place kicker. Lincoln seems like he can no longer get any height on the ball. He does well with extra point kicks but has had his field goal kicks blocked in games and in practice. His low trajectory kicks on field goals are getting blocked by linemen. I think he must be hurt.

newtonrail writes:

The only complaint I have is I believe there were a couple of OL run off who could have been contributors, and we will need them. Something wasn't right to run off Sawtelle, who was recruited by several schools. That and being the grandson of Vol All American. Hooker is supposed to be a recruiting guru, but I thought Furlow was a Recruit, not walk on.

TXbigorangefan writes:

in response to KFDLaw:

We need a good walk on place kicker. Lincoln seems like he can no longer get any height on the ball. He does well with extra point kicks but has had his field goal kicks blocked in games and in practice. His low trajectory kicks on field goals are getting blocked by linemen. I think he must be hurt.

Palardy will be here to save us next year.

CadmiumOchre (Inactive) writes:

in response to newtonrail:

The only complaint I have is I believe there were a couple of OL run off who could have been contributors, and we will need them. Something wasn't right to run off Sawtelle, who was recruited by several schools. That and being the grandson of Vol All American. Hooker is supposed to be a recruiting guru, but I thought Furlow was a Recruit, not walk on.

The ones run off, I suspect they were pampered players. Realizing they wouldn't be pampered anymore, they left. So many players these day are just overgrown spoiled brats and continue to act like it as pros. Witness T.O., that Occhee (?) in Cincinnati, and others around the NFL. Don't blame Kiffin if he refuses to pamper self-serving brats. It takes a team to win games. If you lack a team mentality, good-bye and good riddance.

tonyvick#213307 writes:

Just don't wear those darn orange pants because for some reason we can't win in those.

Ringside writes:

Fulmer must have had another job. He retired years ago.

shopsports#273141 writes:

dthenc writes:
GET OFF OUR F-ING board swamp slime!!!!!!!!!!!!

SmokeyHound writes:

yeah, phulmer wasnt a good recruiter.
but his highest peak was...gues who..eric berry
the #1 safety

Docrok writes:

in response to dthenc:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hey Dude I am not sure what article you are reading but the article on this page is referring to the number of "Walk-Ons" UT is playing! I don't think it references freshman players anywhere in there!

cloudodust writes:

Diamonds in the rough...

Vols05 writes:

Had the opprotunity to coach Wolf in baseball when he was younger with his father as well as mine. He's a fine young man that comes from a wonderful family and represents Cookeville well. He has always wanted to be a Vol and he's made his dream come true! Congrats Tyler!

UrbanCryer writes:

in response to Ringside:

Fulmer must have had another job. He retired years ago.

taste tester for krispy kreme

UrbanCryer writes:

in response to dthenc:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

we dont care about uf and these arent just freshmen they are WALK-ONS.

1974Vol writes:

in response to dthenc:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Go away until you can read and write with comprehension

AllVol2008#1353998 writes:

in response to dthenc:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The article is not even talking about freshmen, moron. It's talking about walk-ons.

VolFanFtl writes:

in response to dthenc:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If you had parents, did they not teach you anything about self-respect?

I find it very very sad that someone like you spends so much of their time on another fans web-site. You really need to get a life.

Again, try giving back to the community you live in, volunteer, help someone else - or, at the very least, get some up for your self.

illinoisvolfan writes:

in response to orangeluvr:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yeah, but sometimes their remarks are so ludicrous that you just can't help it.

rockytopspottedbirgdog writes:

in response to dthenc:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

We arent talking about Freshman. These are walk-ons. Read the article and get your facts straight.

BigOrangeinCharge writes:

in response to SmokeyHound:

yeah, phulmer wasnt a good recruiter.
but his highest peak was...gues who..eric berry
the #1 safety

Um... as good as Eric Berry is, wouldn't Peyton Manning would be Fulmer's greatest recruit? Then how about John Henderson, Dante Stallworth, Jamal Lewis, Travis Henry, Al Wilson, etc.?

What most people on here fail to realize is that walk-ons at major Div. 1 schools like UT are recruited, too. I don't know if UT has a single "walk on" who wasn't encouraged to come to UT and play football by the coaching staff. I think almost all of these guys turned down multiple scholarship offers at other schools for the chance to wear orange and run through the T. It's no wonder those guys, like Reveiz and the Sullins brothers, have become leaders on this team!

I'm glad to see that Kiffin's clean slate gave these guys the opportunity to earn real playing time. I hope Kiffin keeps it up over time. Most big time schools have a few walk ons who deserve playing time, but they seldom see the field because of the politics of high profile recruiting and scholarship money.

VolFanNC writes:

Scary article with all these guys playing. Will probalby take until 2011 until we have 2-3 deep in all positions again.

Hopefully Hardesty, Brown, Crompton can carry the day for us tomorrow.

BadBob70 writes:

in response to 02champs#209256:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Since you brought it up... LOL Nebraska has community clubs that provide scholarships to the best athletes in their community. They are not associated with the University and the kids can go anywhere they want to go to school. Of course, there is only one Div I school in the whole state! Of course these kids have already gone to 4 summer camps at UNL... of course we KNOW where they are gong to school, regardless of what the NCAA thinks.

But... you have an excellent point. UNL has 125 scholarship athletes and we have 65. More importantly, Osborn taught boys how to become men through a football program. The Kiffen family knows this and that is what I expect them to accomplish at UT. It worked for Osborn, it works for Paterno, it worked for John Thomson at Georgetown and for Pat Summmit across the hall.

givehim6 writes:

in response to tonyvick#213307:

Just don't wear those darn orange pants because for some reason we can't win in those.

The VOLS were wearing those *** orange pants when we beat USC. Phil played the superstition game at UT making excuses for looses while running the show, CLK is trying to break these superstitions.

Bloodrunzorange writes:

Where is Neal Kerney when you need him? Go Vols and Go ClK!

Brillovol writes:

in response to Vols05:

Had the opprotunity to coach Wolf in baseball when he was younger with his father as well as mine. He's a fine young man that comes from a wonderful family and represents Cookeville well. He has always wanted to be a Vol and he's made his dream come true! Congrats Tyler!

I too am proud of Tyler as it is rare to see a Cookeville boy play on Rocky Top. Maybe I can live vicarioiusly through him. Don't know Tyler personally, but I played sports with his older brother. I'll be rooting for him tomorrow!

jovols writes:

what happened to Jerod Askew from VA?

lahvolman2 writes:

come on guys and gals ... it's almost over... thought you would see by now that DTHENC isn't really a troll at all... He's just an old Foolmer lover who knows how to push our buttons... bet he doesn't even know how to log onto a gator site anyway... BTW... if you were a gator fan,, would you want him on "your" site?????? anyway... spring practice is only 14 weeks away LOL

DRW writes:

in response to jovols:

what happened to Jerod Askew from VA?

Redshirt this year.

Long_Time_Vols_Fan writes:

in response to tonyvick#213307:

Just don't wear those darn orange pants because for some reason we can't win in those.

Hey TonyVick...we can win in orange pants, dont you remember Halloween night against the yardbirds from SC

cooper65#432178 writes:

in response to 02champs#209256:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

True, but I think a lot of those walk-ons were huge offensive lineman from the state of Nebraska whose dream was to play at Nebraska. Those guys could probably have had scholarships at many schools. I always wondered how Nebraska was able to come up with so many dominant O linemen who were walk-ons and also 5th year seniors. Despite Tom Osborne's squeaky clean image, his program had more than its share of thugs who seemed to get, 2nd, 3rd, 4th chances.

tngilmer writes:

2011, wait for it. The Vols will give the football world Hell.

BluezVol writes:

This story in-and-of itself should be very interesting to blue-chip (undecided or tentative) recruits that are considering UT. "Fella, if you're as good as they say you are, come play in front on 100+k each Saturday not to mention a regional/national television audience". The opportunity is very apparent as the wholes to fill are gaping.

kabulvol writes:

in response to BadBob70:

Since you brought it up... LOL Nebraska has community clubs that provide scholarships to the best athletes in their community. They are not associated with the University and the kids can go anywhere they want to go to school. Of course, there is only one Div I school in the whole state! Of course these kids have already gone to 4 summer camps at UNL... of course we KNOW where they are gong to school, regardless of what the NCAA thinks.

But... you have an excellent point. UNL has 125 scholarship athletes and we have 65. More importantly, Osborn taught boys how to become men through a football program. The Kiffen family knows this and that is what I expect them to accomplish at UT. It worked for Osborn, it works for Paterno, it worked for John Thomson at Georgetown and for Pat Summmit across the hall.

I was going to make the same comment. I was stationed with a big Nebraska fan and he told me about the community club "scholarships". I wasn't sure if that was something that was still going on there or not. While it probably doesn't violate the letter of the law, the spirit of the law may be another story. But, in this day and age, I'm sure the NCAA has looked into it. Besides, its not exactly helping them into the top ten anymore.

johnlg00 writes:

Invited or not, these guys are the TRUE Volunteers. For every one of these guys who actually earn scholarships and play meaningful roles, there are a dozen who haven't done anything more than run with the scout team and hold the blocking dummies. They work just as hard as anyone else with almost none of the glory, but when the chance comes they usually run with it. Thanks for all you do, guys!

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