Sort out the mess, you cute little feller. (Image courtesy Htkym)
One story that's been somewhat underplayed due to the news of Bryce Brown's eligibility is the moving of Rod Wilks from safety to wide receiver. The Smyrna native was actually recruited as a receiver by the Tennessee Volunteers and a slew of other schools, but moved to safety shortly after arriving on campus (something about Eric Berry needing a backup ($)). The move was necessitated by the slew of injuries to wide receivers during the offseason, culminating with Gerald Jones's high ankle sprain, but it's not really a move of desperation: Wilks is going from 3rd-string safety to 2nd-string receiver (logistically speaking, there is no 3rd string in the receiving corps at the moment). He'll need some time to get up to speed on the offensive schemes, but he'll provide valuable rest moments for other receivers early on, and likely become more of a factor as the season wears on. Either way, he'll see more of the field as a receiver than as a safety, so I'm sure he's pleased.
For a little background on Wilks: he was rated at three stars by both Scout and Rivals, though he missed out on more stars mostly due to his 6'-0", sub-200 lb. metrics during recruiting. Since then, he has grown to 6'-2" and 220 lbs, which will help him against more physical defenders and will hopefully help him stay healthier by better absorbing hits. He was known for great catching ability in high school and racked up 77 receptions in his senior season. He's also the brother of fellow Vol Marsalous Johnson.
We have reason to hope that his adjustment to the offense will go smoothly. While every other returning offensive player has had to unlearn the Clawfense (or whatever they were doing last year), Wilks has no such baggage. Instead, he spent 2008 learning defensive scheming under Chavis and this present offseason learning under Monte Kiffin. In the long run, that experience should really help him read defenses and make appropriate micro-adjustments in his routes to maximize his chances for success.
Transitioning the team from last year's high-disorder offense to this year's (presumably) lower-disorder offense requires work. We've seen some of the cost of unlearning already; for example, rectifying quarterback issues like overthinking, holding the ball for too long, and passing with poor technique were all a part of the process during the spring and this fall, and all of these issues were aggravated by the lack of fluency with the offense in 2008. Deprogramming the chaos of last year has taken time and effort, and has slowed down the installation of the new offense. (While Kiffin hasn't said the offense is behind schedule, I have no doubt he had hoped to be further along by now.)
Wilks's free pass around the 2008 season eliminated the cost of deprogramming. While it's true that he's not as familiar with playing offense in general because of his time on defense, it's also fair to say that nobody was familiar with playing offense last year. He completely bypasses the information entropy that plagues Maxwell's Demon and gains entrance directly into the low-disorder system at no unlearning penalty.
Congratulations, Mr. Wilks, you have just defeated the Laws of Thermodynamics.