Vols 'buy in'

New Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin has yet to win a game at the collegiate level but he already has won over some key supporters ... his players.

He met with them for 41 minutes Sunday night. From all accounts, he said the right things and pushed the right buttons.

"Everybody was excited when Lane Kiffin talked to us," defensive end Gerald Williams recalled. "Everybody was energetic after the meeting, ready for spring to start."

Noting that Kiffin made "a great first impression," tight end Luke Stocker offered similar thoughts on the new head man.

"I can't speak for the whole team but, personally, I took a good first step," he said. "It's going to build as we go – every meeting, every practice. That goes along with it.

"I think a lot of the guys are excited about it and looking forward to what's to come."

Kiffin reportedly is a top-notch recruiter. Stocker can believe it after hearing the new coach's sales pitch Sunday night.

"Yeah, I could see that in the meeting," Stocker said. "I felt like he was recruiting me for a little bit. He came out with a lot of energy, a lot of excitement. I think everybody left that meeting with excitement in them."

Stocker apparently couldn't get enough of the new head man. He also attended Kiffin's introductory news conference on Monday afternoon.

"The press conference was like the meeting, except a lot more toned down," the tight end noted. "The team meeting was a whole lot more intense than that (news conference)."

Tennessee's players reacted angrily when Phillip Fulmer tendered his forced resignation on Nov. 3. Several were openly hostile toward the school administration in the weeks that followed.

"I think a lot of that was emotions," Stocker said. "When Coach Fulmer left, they were just in their emotions."

Now that the players have grieved Fulmer's departure and accepted Kiffin's arrival, the mood of the team has undergone a significant transformation.

"I wouldn't say there was a cloud hanging over but there was a lot of curiosity," Stocker said. "It (coaching vacancy) was in the back of our minds. It felt good to know who our new coach is going to be instead of sitting around wondering."

Williams echoed those sentiments. He feels a mixture of relief and eagerness after meeting with the new coach.

"His personality was real good," Williams said. "He came across as a players' coach. I can tell that. He's willing to listen to his players. He sat down and talked with some of the players after the meeting – which he didn't have to do."

Clearly, Kiffin knows how to manage a meeting. If he is equally adept at managing a college football team, Tennessee may not suffer any more 5-7 seasons anytime soon.

"Coach Kiffin had a good meeting Sunday night, and I think a lot of guys bought in," Stocker said. "I'm excited about it. I bought in and right now I'm ready to go. I'm looking forward to spring practice."

He believes his teammates feel similarly upbeat. That should help the Vols on the field, as well as off.

"That goes with everything," Stocker said. "The quicker they buy in, the quicker they start playing good. That's the way it works."

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