Tennessee Vols inside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer is heading to the NFL to join the New York Giants’ coaching staff.
— Tyler Wombles (@TylerWombles) January 26, 2020
That means Jeremy Pruitt now has two spots to fill on his UT coaching staff (he also needs a running backs coach).
Fortunately for the Vols, Pruitt has made plenty of connections in the coaching world over the years. It shouldn’t be too hard for him to find a replacement for Sherrer, who also served as Tennessee’s special teams coordinator.
Here are a few potential options to replace Sherrer.
Note: It’s possible that quality control analyst Carter Blount could handle most of the special teams duties, allowing Pruitt to freely apply the special teams coordinator label on whichever coach he pleases. Something else to remember is that Pruitt has plenty of experience coaching inside linebackers, so he’ll probably be helping in that area a bit more in 2020.
Brian Niedermeyer (Tennessee tight ends coach)
Pruitt has noted on several occasions that Niedermeyer could coach on either side of the ball. When Niedermeyer was a graduate assistant under Pruitt at Alabama, he actually worked with linebackers. If Pruitt moved Niedermeyer to linebackers, he could move quality control coach Joe Osovet to running backs and then hire a tight ends coach. Or he could move Osovet to tight ends and hire a running backs coach (which seems more likely).
Addison Lynch (San Diego Chargers quality control coach).
Lynch served as a defensive graduate assistant under Jeremy Pruitt on Florida State’s 2013 national championship team. He joined the Chargers’ staff as a quality control coach in 2018, where he’s mostly worked with linebackers.
Kevin Simon (Tennessee, player development)
If the Vols want to promote from within, they could move Simon, a former UT linebacker, to an on-the-field role. It would be similar to the promotion that Jeremy Pruitt received from Nick Saban at Alabama in 2010.
George Helow (Maryland inside linebackers/special teams)
This one could be a bit tricky. Helow just recently joined Mike Locksley’s staff at Maryland, but I’m sure he’d take a job in the SEC if it was offered. Helow and Pruitt have crossed paths on several occasions. Helow was an intern at Alabama in 2012 and he was a defensive quality control coach at Georgia in 2014 and 2015. Helow most recently served as Colorado State’s safeties coach.
Chris Jones (Cleveland Browns defensive assistant)
Jones spent the 2019 season on Freddie Kitchens’ staff in Cleveland as a defensive assistant (Kitchens and Pruitt are former teammates and good friends). The Tennessee native, who played college football at Chattanooga, spent over 15 years coaching in the CFL (including his final five seasons as a head coach). Jones, who also coached at Tennessee Tech and UT Martin, was a graduate assistant at Alabama in 1997 (Pruitt was also a graduate assistant at Alabama in 1997).
There are two names that some folks might expect to see here that I didn’t list.
Mike Ekeler and Lance Thompson, who have both coached with Pruitt and served as linebackers coaches, would seemingly make sense.
But there are two good reasons why I left them off this list.
It’s fairly well known that Ekeler, who coached with Pruitt at Georgia, isn’t a big fan of Tennessee’s head coach. For whatever reason, they didn’t gel very well at Georgia. Ekeler famously danced around a question about Pruitt after leaving Georgia.
As for Thompson, he was hit with a one year show cause penalty this past fall for a recruiting violation that happened at South Carolina. I can’t see Tennessee wanting to get involved with that situation.
Update: Since publishing this article, I’ve been asked about former Alabama assistant Tosh Lupoi several times. I didn’t include him because he recently signed a deal to become the Atlanta Falcons’ defensive line coach/run game coordinator.
Featured image via Vasha Hunt — USA Today/247Sports