John Propst isn't the biggest, fastest or strongest guy on the Tennessee roster.
But neither was the guy he's trying to replace at middle linebacker.
Propst doesn't necessarily draw the comparisons between himself and graduated senior Nick Reveiz on his own, but he also doesn't need to as the Vols move on without the heart and nerve-center of their defense this spring. Propst also shoots down suggestions that everything Reveiz provided can be replaced, but considering how much the two share in common, UT might have the perfect candidate to do exactly that.
"The main thing is just to come out here and be a leader," Propst said. "Nick's gone, some of the other seniors are gone, and we just need some people to step up really to lead the defense. Come out here and be vocal, get everybody lined up and do everything right and just come out here and compete every day.
"I'm kind of a quiet guy off the field, and when I get on it I kind of turn into a general out there, I guess. I try to lead everybody, and that comes with the position. At middle linebacker, you have to do that or you're not going to be able to get on the field."
Propst saw enough of the field a year ago to earn freshman All-SEC honors, though that award also opened him up to some jokes from coach Derek Dooley about how he was probably the only freshman middle linebacker in the league who played.
It is true that Propst isn't bringing that much experience with him into a spring practice that is featuring him prominently at the center of the defense, and it's also obvious that UT will be counting on him for much more than 14 tackles and one takedown for a loss this fall. But the Vols seem to have total confidence that he can deliver what they need, particularly since Propst is cut from the same cloth as a guy who spent last year tutoring him.
"He's one of the most instinctive players on defense," Dooley said. "You can't have a better quality as a defensive football player.
"Obviously what he lacks is, you know, he's not very experienced, he's not a burner, his size and speed aren't top-shelf, so he's got to make up for it with his instincts, his effort and his toughness."
Certainly that formula has been used successfully before by the Vols, who have enough faith in Propst right now to let Austin Johnson get in some work on the outside throughout camp.
Johnson's reps there are partly tied to the absence of Herman Lathers due to offseason shoulder surgery, which has left some chances for Greg King and Daryl Vereen to impress on the outside as well. And Johnson is also still getting some preparation in the middle as part of UT's effort to cross-train linebackers and build some depth across the board.
But while that shuffling continues on the outside, Propst doesn't look like an option to move around much. He may not be a physical prototype at middle linebacker, but he certainly would seem to fit right into the spot Reveiz left behind.
"Nick was an intense guy, everyone looked up to him," Propst said. "I mean, he did everything right, you can't replace Nick Reveiz. He's one of those great players that you have every so often. He didn't get enough credit for what he did, but he was a great player and everybody looked up to him. He was a leader and everybody followed him.
"I feel comfortable (leading), and it's something I look forward to. I want to step up and take that position. It's just a challenge coming out here every day and competing as hard as you can, I don't see it as intimidating, I just look forward to it as a challenge."