Things are different at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for football alumnus Chris Cook.
And that's not a bad thing.
Cook returned to a coaching position at UTC in May, following a season at East Carolina when he served as an offensive quality control coordinator and offensive line assistant. With the Mocs, he is in charge of the tackles and tight ends, and he's glad to be back.
"It's been a while since I've been to Scrappy (Moore Field, the practice facility). It's been a while since I've been to Chattanooga," the 2002 All-America center said after Wednesday's practice. "It feels great to be back; the energy and culture that (former coach Russ) Huesman built here, and now the culture that Coach (Tom) Arth is bringing here is great. I'm proud as an alum and a former player to come back to this."
The opportunity to come back was created when former running backs coach Shawn Bryson left for a high school head coaching job. Arth moved Chris Hurd, who had been coaching tight ends, to running backs coach to replace Bryson, and Cook moved into Hurd's former position.
"His expertise with offensive-line play has been such a positive for the program," Arth said. "He's helped the tight ends develop in the run game; he's been excellent. I think our tight ends are playing well now. Coach Hurd did a fantastic job working with them all winter, spring and through the summer, and now Coach Cook has come in, brought great energy and a great sense of pride to our team."
Through the first three days of practice, Cook was seen holding his groups to high standards. Dropped pass? Got to come out. Missed assignment? Got to come out. Junior Bailey Lenoir false-started during a live period in Wednesday's practice, and in trotted senior Malcolm Colvin, despite Lenoir's objections.
But it hasn't all been negative. Catches by Lenoir, Colvin and redshirt freshman Jack Keebler have received high praise, as have correct blocks and proper execution of assignments.
Arth said he knew really quickly — extremely quickly, as in the first conversation — that Cook would be perfect for a position with the Mocs. But the last time Arth said he felt that strongly about a hire, Demarcus Covington was with the program for only three months before accepting a position with the New England Patriots.
"If you look at all the guys we have here on staff, it's kind of that way," Arth said. "You get a certain feel about people; it happens pretty instantaneously. You get a sense that guys are a little bit different, they stand out and there's something unique about, something special about them.
"Coach Cook and all the coaches are going to have opportunities to really coach at whatever level they want to, and I hope we can hang onto them for as long as possible."
But there's no rush. Cook just got back to his alma mater, and he's looking to be the same type of influence on his position group that former assistant coaches had on him while he was in Chattanooga.
"You don't always get a chance to coach at your school that you played at, so any time that opportunity comes available and you're in position to do it, why not? Why wouldn't I do that?" Cook said. "It's a special thing to be able to coach on the same field where a lot of great coaches coached me, and where I played with a lot of great guys here, so it's good to come back and give back to these guys."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.