Adams: Defense one constant for Vols

John Adams

How appropriate that two of Tennessee's three student-athlete representatives at SEC football media days play defense.

If you want to be the least bit optimistic about UT's upcoming football season, you turn to the defense. Until a new quarterback can find his way and a new offensive line can synchronize its efforts, that defense might be all that stands between UT and a full-scale collapse against an imposing early-season schedule, which includes Oregon and Florida in the first three weeks of the season.

History is in the Vols' favor. In the worst of seasons, the defense rarely has sunk below a respectable level. So perhaps it can now hold its ground despite all the changes that have rocked a once-sturdy program.

As unsteady as the offense might have been amidst all the coaching changes and player attrition of the last few years, the defense has held its ground, even when the ground was shaking.

Longtime UT defensive coordinator John Chavis and last year's defensive coordinator, former NFL guru Monte Kiffin, might have been markedly different in their background and approach. Yet players responded to both of them.

And maybe they will do the same following an extreme western shift. Up next: Justin Wilcox, a bright, young coordinator who left national championship contender Boise State to head up the defense of new UT coach Derek Dooley.

An encouraging sign: Wilcox quickly gained the confidence of senior middle linebacker Nick Reveiz, whose close connection with Monte Kiffin hardly qualified him as an easy convert.

"I owe (Monte Kiffin)," Reveiz said. "He taught me a lot about football.

"One of the biggest things he taught me, the first rule of just getting better is just showing up. If you do that, and get everyone together at the same time, you're going to learn. He was just a big team guy."

For an example, take the viewing habits of UT's defense under Kiffin. When the players reviewed the video of the previous game, they didn't do so as individual units, but as an entire defense.

"We had to be accountable to each other," Reveiz said. "That was the big thing.

"There have been years on this team where we had individuals who wanted to do their own thing. They wanted to get their work in but they wanted to do it by themselves.

"This is the ultimate team sport. So if we can get everybody together, moving in the right direction, that's a start."

The direction hasn't changed under Wilcox, according to Reveiz.

"I think the biggest thing about Coach Wilcox, he's such a good communicator with his players. He's a player's coach.

"Monte was the same way. He was a player's coach. He'd talk to anybody as long as you needed to."

Kiffin also often relied on decades worth of NFL experience. Wilcox can't match that, but his background with spread offenses is welcome.

"He's gone against spread offenses all the time," Reveiz said. "So he knows a ton. It's pretty cool to see his 3-4 defense and how he brings different packages. It's not traditional stuff. It has been really helpful to see that.

"He's specialized in stopping the spread. And that's something we're going to see a lot."

Strategy can't resolve all of the defense's issues. While there's obvious talent on hand, the defense is way down in numbers.

The problem of depth was underscored when starting safety Darren Myles was kicked off the team this month for his role in a barroom brawl, which involved a number of other defensive players. If more players are dismissed or suspended, you can imagine what that will do for a thin defense.

Reveiz takes an analytical, but optimistic, view of that defense as well as the entire team.

"Are we young?" he said. "Yes. Do we have much depth? No, we don't.

"But if we've got 60 guys who are bonded, compared to 100 who aren't, I'd rather take the 60.

"That's where we're at right now."

John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 9

TheSuperfly writes:

How could anybody not like this kid?

EZVOL writes:

I'd take 60 Nick Reveiz types any day. We'll do OK.

AHoffman writes:

Is that defense as in Defense Attorney?

murrayvol writes:

How the "incident" and it's aftermath sorts out will be critical since the bar patrons represented a who's who of the UT defense.

oskie_score writes:

I respect what CJW accomplished while DC at BS, highlighted by the win against OU.

Implementing a 3-4 defense in the SEC, a run first conference, is risky but w/ the right personnel in place (3 key positions are both Mike's & the NT) and the ability to make quick adjustments it can be effective.

I am realistic about the upcoming 2010 season. Wins will be hard fought and few but what I will look for and expect from CDD and Staff is Tennessee fielding a team with a "never quit" attitude...giving it their all for 60 minutes, playing each and every play as if it were the last.

As fans we need to be patient and supportive, 2010 and 2011 seasons are building blocks, what we (Vol Nation) can get excited about is the direction and focus CDD has for this team and the what the (near) future (2012, 2013, etc) holds.

VOLliven2it writes:

In the end, either the guys on the field will want to play or not. If they give their best, we will applaud them and will be in games we are not suppose to be in. The key will be moving beyond whatever happens to all the footbrawl players. That has to be put behind the ones left and in the future they need to BE a team and keep each other accountable and away from dangerous venues. Let's give Wilcox a chance to do what he does. It is best that we not speculate what he will do and especially not compare him to M. Kiffin or Chief Chavis. He is our man now and we need to stick by him thick or thin. As for Nick Reveiz, he is a bright spot in so many ways for this team. Keep shining man!

bornonamoutaintop writes:

not a traitor but ssounds like Reveiz is our tebow SORRY NICK, but that is a comppliment. A leader who is sorry for getting injured humble a team player who has not mentioned the "NEXTlevel" or whined about staff changes, maybe more like our MAN MANNING. Does his job and can carry the load by himself all while elevating the people around him proud to call him OUR GO TO GUY. Stay healthy and come back to show leadership for years to come. thanks P.S. stay proud

Rebelsfball2008 writes:

liking the way the fans are uniting on the boards these days reminds me of a few years ago when nobody thought wed beat cal

allvol32 writes:

in response to AHoffman:

Is that defense as in Defense Attorney?

Very funny dude - you must be a professional comedian to come up with such witty repartee.

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