"I always thought of him as a pass-rush guy," senior defensive end Chris Walker said, "but he's all about the run. It's kind of funny. It's a little change-up but it's good for us."
Tennessee did a very good job stopping the run in 2009, allowing opponents to average just 2.8 yards per carry and 103.1 rushing yards per game. Conversely, the Vols were not particularly good at rushing the passer - recording just 22 sacks in 13 games. Based on these stats and Smith's reputation as a superior pass-rusher, you figured he'd bring a heavy emphasis on pressuring quarterbacks. That's what the Vols figured, too.
"It's crazy because I've known Chuck to be a pass-rush guy," Walker said. "Then he comes in and the first thing he says is 'We're going to stop the run.' I thought it was going to be about the pass rush but that shows what kind of guy he is. He played in this league (SEC) and he played here (at Tennessee), so he knows what it takes to win in the Southeastern Conference."
Smith, who signed with UT out of junior college in 1990, is recognized as one of the premier pass rushers in Vol history. He is in the UT record book to this day for a three-sack performance he registered against Louisville in 1991.
Although Smith made clear to Tennessee's current defensive linemen that he expects them to be good pass rushers, he made even clearer that he DEMANDS that they be good run stuffers.
"We stop the run; that's his main focus," Walker said. "He said pass rush is what we do but we're going to stop the run because that's what we have to do to win in this conference."
Although Smith is an energetic coach, he isn't as boisterous as last season's defensive line coach, Ed Orgeron. Then again, who is?
"Coach Smith has a lot of energy," Walker said, "but not as much as the other guy (Orgeron) that was here."
Like Chuck Smith, new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has impressed Walker with his expertise and enthusiasm.
"I really like their energy," Walker said. "They're really knowledgeable guys. They know everything we need to know to be successful on defense."
Tennessee's players were a bit shocked when head coach Lane Kiffin abruptly left last January for Southern Cal, taking defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and Orgeron with him. Walker felt a lot better, though, when he learned that Chuck Smith would be succeeding Orgeron as D-line coach.
"I was really happy about the hire because I knew we were going to get a really good coach out of it, a really good teacher," Walker said. "He's a guy that could teach us everything we needed to know about pass rushing and stopping the run. I was really excited."
After the first two spring practices, he still is.