Nick of time

You don't have to be a big guy to handle a big responsibility. One Tennessee linebacker is banking on that.

At 5-feet-10 and 220 pounds, Nick Reveiz is a bit small to play middle linebacker. But he's instinctive and agile, two attributes that factor heavily in the Tampa-2 scheme new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is installing this spring.

Reveiz, a rising junior from Knoxville, admits that he doesn't know a lot about the Tampa-2 thus far.

"Not as much as I'd like to," he said recently. "But I know it's a big role for the middle linebacker to play well. You've got to protect that deep middle (in pass coverage), so it's a big responsibility for the Mike linebacker."

Given the importance of coverage skills in the Vols' new scheme, a middle linebacker with more quickness than size – a guy like Nick Reveiz, in other words – could be a really good fit in the Tampa-2.

"I feel I can move well in pass coverage and cover people in space," he said. "It's something I feel will be to my advantage."

Monte Kiffin came up with the Tampa-2 while coordinating the defense of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The scheme is built around an aggressive front four and speedy linebackers who can cover from sideline to sideline. After watching tape of the 2008-09 Bucs, Reveiz has tremendous respect for their linebackers.

"We've watched a lot of Tampa Bay film," he said. "Those guys are incredible linebackers and they did an incredible job for Coach Kiffin. This is the same system Coach Kiffin's bringing here, and I feel like we can have success with it here, too."

Tennessee's success in the Tampa-2 will depend in large part on finding three quality linebackers. Right now the Vols have one – two-year starter Rico McCoy – and a bunch of unproven prospects.

"Rico is a very, very good player who has played a lot of good football," Reveiz noted. "Behind him I really feel like everything is open competition. We have a lot of guys competing, so everyone's excited and ready to prove they can do it. With open competition, I really feel like there's no set spots."

Being a former walk-on, Reveiz loves the fact no job is safe. He believes it has energized all of the Vols – returning starters and career backups alike.

As he put it: "When we have open competition, you've got guys thinking 'I don't have this locked up. If I come out of spring as the starter that doesn't mean I'm going to start in the fall.'

"I think it demands your best performance every single day. You can't just have a day where you think, 'I'm not feeling too good, so I'm just going to take the day off and the next day I'll go all out.' You can't do that because you could lose your job. Competition breeds success."

Tennessee's players aren't the only ones exhibiting an impressive work ethic this spring. Tennessee's new coaches are, as well.

"There's definitely intensity," Reveiz said. "Every single minute we have in that 20-hour rule we're productive with it and we're learning something. There's no wasted seconds.

"When we're on the field there's no wasted motion, no wasted reps. Everyone's getting reps and everyone's trying to get better. From that aspect, I really think we're very, very intense."


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