At first, Muhammad Wilkerson thought the text from Sione Po'uha was a joke.

"You serious?" Wilkerson shot back.

Po'uha wasn't kidding. The emotional leader of the New York Jets' defensive line, a locker-room mentor to Wilkerson, had just been released.

"It hit me hard," Wilkerson said, recalling that day early last month.

There have been quite a few "you serious?" moments this offseason for the emerging star. Wilkerson has watched as the Jets' defense, three seasons removed from its No. 1 ranking, has crumbled around him.

Seven starters … gone. The most famous of them all, cornerback Darrelle Revis, could be traded in the coming days. Upheaval is as much a part of the NFL as helmets and shoulder pads, but this has been extreme even by the league's standards.

It'll be a different Jets team that reports Monday for the start of the offseason program -- so many familiar faces gone, scattered across the league. A few remain unemployed.

Fortunately for the Jets, Wilkerson is still in the room. On a team that needs so many things, he's The Next Big Thing.

He's still only 23, his career rising like a helium-filled balloon. His talent is obvious, and now there's added motivation. He's determined to right a perceived wrong.

Wilkerson kept his feelings quiet at the time, but he felt he deserved to make the Pro Bowl last season. The hulking defensive end doesn't say a whole lot, but that admission reveals the amount of pride, confidence and determination churning inside.

And it makes his coaches almost giddy with anticipation.

"Just sit back and, like [Terrell Owens] said, get your popcorn ready," defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said.

Wilkerson is ready.