Welcoming Wilcox

Monte Kiffin already was in his 11th year as a football coach when the man who would succeed him as Tennessee's defensive coordinator was born on Nov. 12, 1976.

Justin Wilcox, 33, may be a young pup compared to his 70-year-old predecessor but the new coordinator seems to be garnering the same level of respect from his troops.

"It is quite a difference," sophomore safety Prentiss Waggner said. "He told us when he got here that he's not Monte Kiffin but he likes to get after it also. Coach Wilcox is great, man."

Early indications suggest Tennessee's players relish the opportunity to "get after it" with their new leader.

"Coach Wilcox is a hell of a coach," senior defensive end Gerald Williams said. "He's got a different style, a different swagger. He's putting us all in the best spots. He had a great career at Boise State, and he's taken off here. We're feeding off him and learning."

Asked to characterize Wilcox's style, Williams replied: "His style is hardcore but simple. He's precise and a great teacher."

Whereas Kiffin was old enough to be the grandfather of UT's players, Wilcox is young enough to be an older brother to them. Whether youth is a factor or not, there seems to be an exceptional rapport between the new coach and his players.

"He's very easy to talk to," Williams said. "I can relate to him and I can go to him about anything."

Senior linebacker Nick Reveiz offers similar thoughts:

"I love Coach Wilcox. This whole staff has been open arms every single day. Coach Wilcox is fun. You can joke around with him but, when it comes time to get down to business, he gets down to business.

"I've already watched film with him a couple of times. It's really cool to see him. He wasn't trying to come in here and be a hard-butt but, at the same time, he was like, 'Hey, you've got to get your work done.'"

Waggner likes everything he's seen from the new coordinator thus far.

"We like his scheme, and feel like he's an aggressive signal-caller," he said. "I think he's going to be a great defensive coordinator for us."

Darren Myles, another sophomore safety, agrees.

"I like Coach Wilcox," Myles said. "He's real cool. He's a great teacher. He's helped me get the defense a lot. He teaches according to how you learn. He has visual learning and audio learning. He helps me because everybody has a different learning style."

Because he is rehabbing an ACL injury, Reveiz was unsure how much the new coordinator would expect of him this spring. That concern has been alleviated.

"I've played here before, and he's given me the option to go as hard as I can in the spring but not injure myself," Reveiz said. "So that's comforting."

Incredibly, veteran Vols such as Reveiz are playing under their third coordinator in three years. After playing for John Chavis through 2008, they had Kiffin in '09 and now Wilcox in 2010.

That's a lot of coaching styles to adjust to in a three-year span but Tennessee's defenders seem to be adapting well.

"It's the same thing, different day. That's all I can say," Williams said matter of factly. "We've been in the trenches before. We've just got to move forward with what we've got."


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