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.