published Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Steve Stripling gains Vols D-line's respect as teacher

KNOXVILLE — Steve Stripling is the latest new guy to stand at the front of the Tennessee defensive line meeting room.

As far as transitions go, though, the program's fifth defensive line coach in five years faces less of a challenge than some of his fellow Volunteers assistants.

There are six senior defensive linemen on the roster, many of them accustomed to adjusting to a new coach each spring.

"It's a big advantage," Stripling said after Thursday morning's practice, the third of the spring. "You take Marlon [Walls] and some of the guys that have been around [like] Dan Hood -- even though I'm like their fourth D-line coach in four years, they're really trying to buy in and they're really trying to give us leadership.

"We're talking about our focus in our group, which means when times get tough don't think about yourself. Think about what we call the warrior to our right and left. Encourage them, and in doing so, you really help yourself, and it helps them."

A coaching veteran of nearly 30 years, Stripling spent nearly two decades coaching Big Ten defensive lines sandwiching a two-year stint at Louisville before he hooked up with new Vols coach Butch Jones at Central Michigan in 2007.

His new players have noticed both his resume and his different style.

"Coach Strip, he's a heck of a coach, man," said Walls, a Memphian who signed with Tennessee in 2009. "He's going to get on you when it's time for him to get on you, but at the same time, he'll listen to you. He's actually teaching as opposed to just yelling at you.

"He's more in the teaching business, and he's going to make sure you understand the scheme, and he's going to go through it two or three times. If you mess it up the third time, now he gets on you. That's the way it's supposed to be."

Prototypical defensive line coaches are yellers, but Walls said there's "definitely a big difference" in Stripling's style.

"When you look at his resume, you understand that he's the guy that he knows what he's talking about," he explained. "Not saying the other guys didn't, but he comes in with expectations. When a coach comes in like that, when he's talking to you, as opposed to yelling at you, and teaching, we appreciate it.

"He's got a great resume, and it's time for us to shut up and just listen and go do what he tells us to do."

Tennessee linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen, in his first three months of coaching with Stripling, described the 59-year-old as an "old school" coach.

"Those are usually the toughest guys on the field," Thigpen said. "No-nonsense and don't compromise kids -- that's him. He's a tough-nosed guy."

Stripling himself said he only yells when he deems it necessary.

"My style," he said, "is to be intense when I want the message to get through. Other than that, I'm going to be a teacher, and I think that's the way young people learn, is that you're consistent, you're confident and you're getting message your across. But if you need to emphasize it, you can get excited."

With the advantage of an experienced defensive line comes high expectations, and Stripling has emphasized those to his new players.

"I think he understands there's guys that have been around for a while," Walls said, "so he has high expectations for us, and I think we appreciate that because it pushes us as a unit."

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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