'It's going to be war'

New Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin doesn't know if the Vols' 2009 offense will be explosive or methodical, pass-happy or run-oriented. What he does know is that it will not be soft.

"All I can tell you about our offense is that it will be really physical," he said. "We'll be physical because we'll play the physical players. We won't play guys that don't play physical ... don't play tough, and we'll find out real quick (who they are)."

Tennessee was known for its physical play in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, thanks to such dominating blockers as Harry Galbreath, Bruce Wilkerson, Tom Myslinski, Bubba Miller, Mike Stowell, Kevin Mays, Chad Clifton, Cosey Coleman, Fred Weary and Scott Wells.

In recent years, however, third-and-two increasingly came to be viewed as a passing situation. Gradually, Tennessee became known more for finesse football than smash-mouth football. Kiffin intends to change that, a message he already conveyed to the players.

"The main message was that it's a new page in the Tennessee book," tight end Luke Stocker said. "The practices aren't going to be the same. It's going to be war."

Defensive end Gerald Williams, for one, is ready to go to war.

"Oh, yeah. I love the physicalness ... not going soft," he said. "I love hard work, hard-nosed football. It doesn't get any better than that."

To ensure that Tennessee's players go full-bore this spring, Kiffin announced that all 22 starting jobs are up for grabs. The Vols – even starters such as Stocker – find that prospect appealing.

"There's no starters on either side of the ball," he said. "You've got to earn your spot. You've got to come out and work your tail off. That's the way it needs to be – everybody going out everyday and busting their tail, not feeling comfortable with where they're at.

"That's going to do nothing but make each individual player better and make our team better."

Williams, who saw only spot duty in 2008, is understandably excited to know he'll be competing for a first-team job this spring.

"Everybody feels great about that," he said. "Whether you did good or bad, everybody gets to start off brand new ... refreshed.

"Guys who think they should've been a starter that didn't start now get a chance to prove that instead of pouting about it. Coach is giving you a chance."

Although most of the Vols seem impressed with Kiffin, a few are still wondering if Tennessee is the right place for them. When asked if he expects any of his teammates to transfer, Stocker shrugged.

"I wouldn't expect any of the guys to leave," he said. "I wouldn't say they won't look around and see what their options are but I think everybody will take the spring to evaluate how they feel here at the University of Tennessee with the new coach."


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