Little linebackers

Any opponent hoping to block Tennessee's middle linebackers this fall faces an obvious problem: It will have to find them first.

Both first-team MLB Ellix Wilson and backup Nick Reveiz pack roughly 225 pounds on 5-foot-10 frames. They're considerably shorter than recent predecessors Marvin Mitchell and Jerod Mayo. Mitchell played middle linebacker in 2006 at 6-3 and 245 pounds, then Mayo filled the role in '07 at 6-2 and 240 pounds.

Vertically challenged linebackers are not unprecedented at UT, however. Kevin Simon, at 5-11, led the Vols in tackles as the No. 1 strongside linebacker in 2003 (115) and as the starting middle linebacker in 2005 (88). This raises the question: Could a diminutive frame actually be advantageous in some instances at linebacker?

"Oh, yeah, I think it's a huge thing," Reveiz said recently. "The biggest thing is leverage. I'm automatically already down there (underneath the blocker) in a low position. So is Ellix."

Another benefit of being short in stature is the incentive one can derive from it. Nothing motivates Reveiz more than hearing people say he's too small to play such a physically taxing position. He finds their reasoning absolutely mind-boggling.

"A lot of people think, 'You're not tall enough to look over the line.' Well, NOBODY is looking over the linemen because they're 6-5 or 6-6, which is the average height of an SEC lineman," Reveiz said. "You need to be down in a football position, and being 5-10 gives you an opportunity to get leverage on everybody else ... to get up in somebody's face mask."

A son of former Vol kicker Fuad Reveiz, Nick has little trouble getting underneath an opponent's face mask. But he still has some improvements to make before he can seriously challenge Ellix Wilson for the top job at middle linebacker.

"I think I've just got to be consistent," Reveiz said. "Every play I have to take care of my responsibility, my end of the deal. I've got to be ready to go physically, and I've got to be ready to go mentally.

"I think I've done that this offseason, so consistency is the biggest thing."

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