Tall enough

In 43 years as a defensive coach Monte Kiffin has learned that you don't measure a football player in feet and inches. You measure him in tackles and assists.

That's why Tennessee's new defensive coordinator couldn't care less whether junior middle linebacker Nick Reveiz stands 5-8, 5-9 or his listed height of 5-10. It's immaterial.

"I know he's short but I don't know exactly how tall he is," Kiffin admitted. "When I first talked to the whole defense, I said: 'I don't care how tall you are. I don't care how fast you run. I don't care what you weigh. I don't care what you bench-press. If you make plays you make plays, and all I see is 56 making a lot of plays."

Number 56, of course, is Reveiz. He'd be easy to recognize even without a jersey number because he is dwarfed when he takes his accustomed spot behind Tennessee's massive defensive tackles. The 220-pounder's lack of height didn't keep him from finishing spring practice bracketed No. 1 at middle linebacker, however, and it won't keep him off the field this fall.

"He'll play," Kiffin said. "I've coached a lot of players that were a little bit shorter but he really has played well."

In Tennessee's three major spring scrimmages – April 4, April 10 and the Orange & White Game on April 18 – Reveiz registered 17 stops, with 2 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.

"Nick's really jumped out," Kiffin noted, "and showed us some things that people maybe didn't think he could do."

Bracketed first-team with Reveiz is Herman Lathers, a 6-1, 213-pound redshirt freshman. He's talented but green.

"Herman is young," Kiffin said. "Every rep he gets is new to him. He was young last year. He's still young and he's got a new system (to learn) on top of that.

"He's got some talent. Once he gets a better feel for it (he'll improve) because so much of defense is playing fast, and you can't play fast if you're thinking."

Minus 2008 starter Ellix Wilson, the leading tackler last fall, middle linebacker loomed as a position of concern for Tennessee heading into spring practice. It still is, but Reveiz and Lathers have alleviated some of those concerns.

"They're doing good," Kiffin said. "They're getting better."

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