'Work your butt off'

Everyone with the ability to speak has distinctive speech patterns – certain inflections, words and phrases they tend to use on a regular basis.

Clearly, Rico McCoy's favorite phrase this spring is "work your butt off." Tennessee's rising senior linebacker scarcely completes a sentence without throwing it in there somewhere.

For instance, when asked what new head man Lane Kiffin and his assistants are focusing on this spring, McCoy replied:

"It's all about working hard. They're interested in putting the best players on the field, so everyone's going at it 110 miles per hour and working hard ... working your butt off. If you work hard enough you can be on the field. That's Coach's philosophy, and everybody's bought into it."

To ensure that the career backups work just as hard as the returning starters, Kiffin announced that all first-team jobs are up for grabs. This elicited a few "work your butt off" comments from McCoy, as well.

"I'm sure there are some players that think they haven't gotten a fair chance to play," he said. "I feel as though the best man should be on the field. If you work your butt off, you should be out on the field. If you work your butt off, you're going to be out there."

The Vols, who return to the practice field this afternoon after a 10-day spring break, certainly appear to be working their butts off. That suggests Kiffin and staff are pushing the right buttons.

"Everything," McCoy said, "is high tempo."

At linebacker, there's high drama, as well. With middle man Ellix Wilson and strongside co-starters Nevin McKenzie and Adam Myers-White out of eligibility, McCoy is the only returning first-teamer at the three 'backer positions. He's convinced the Vols' second line of defense will be solid, however.

"We've got Nick Reveiz playing Mike (middle) linebacker," McCoy noted. "He played in quite a few games last year. He's a playmaker – one of the toughest guys I know, a hard-working guy. Nick has proved himself big-time.

"We've got quite a few guys – LaMarcus Thompson ... Herman Lathers ... Savion Frazier played a lot behind me last year. Any of those guys could wind up starting."

The only proven starter, however, is McCoy, and even he won't be starting at the same position. He's switching from weakside linebacker to strongside linebacker this spring. How's he progressing?

"I'm picking that up as I go along," he said.

While working his butt off, no doubt.

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