MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Erik Slaughter is 44 years old going on 24.
"Age," West Virginia's defensive line coach said, "is a mindset."
And mindset is Slaughter's specialty. That much seems crystal clear since he joined the WVU coaching staff in February.
Slaughter, of course, replaced Bill Kirelawich, who went to join Rich Rodriguez at Arizona with Jeff Casteel and David Lockwood, and everyone wants to tell Slaughter how different he is from the guy before him.
That's kind, but it's not entirely accurate. Sure, Slaughter doesn't have the blue vocabulary or the booming voice, but he's still making noise, what with the way actions still speak louder than words.
Just watch Slaughter work. Witness a man wrestling with himself to stay on the side right up until he reaches a limit, drops the whistle and gets into the practice himself.
Never mind how he'll feel the morning after banging into Jorge Wright and Will Clarke.
"I want to show them," he said. "I'm a visual learner. Different guys learn different ways. To me, that's the importance of being a coach. You've got to know how guys learn."
Slaughter sometimes prefers to go hand-to-hand or stand shoulder-to-shoulder with his players, to get as close as he can to see who's learning and responding and developing.
He knows some players like positive reinforcement. He knows he needs to talk tough to connect with others. Some players can run through a drill once and grasp it. Others need a coach to walk them through it before it clicks.
"My job is to understand how they learn so I can teach them," said Slaughter, who has been coaching for 23 years and spent the previous three seasons at Stephen F. Austin. "It's pretty easy to see when you're right there with them."
He has his methods off the field, too, and he seems more reserved and calculated than what the Mountaineers may have grown accustomed to the past several years.
Kirelawich was unique coach, with the volume turned up and the targets never spared in front of the onlookers. His players learned to deal with it.
Slaughter learns to deal with his players.