The Tennessee Vols suffered a major off-the-field loss earlier this week when four-star defensive lineman Jay Hardy committed to the Auburn Tigers.
Hardy, a native of Chattanooga, had been unofficially penciled in as a part of Tennessee’s 2020 recruiting class. It was quite a shock when he shunned the Vols for the Tigers.
While no one is really sure why Hardy chose to commit to Auburn after leaning heavy toward Tennessee, there’s no doubt that some of the blame falls squarely on UT defensive line coach Tracy Rocker.
Rocker wasn’t Hardy’s primary recruiter (that was special teams/linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer), but the Vols’ defensive line coach would’ve been Hardy’s position coach at Tennessee.
Rocker reportedly didn’t have much of a relationship with Hardy, which seems odd. Having a good relationship with your future position coach seems like it would be extremely important for any recruit.
For various reasons, Rocker doesn’t have a stellar reputation as a recruiter. And that’s not an area where the Vols can afford to miss out right now.
That’s why I think Jeremy Pruitt should move on from Rocker, like Georgia did in 2016.
And I have the perfect coach in mind to take Rocker’s place.
The former California defensive lineman coached with Pruitt at Alabama in 2016 and 2017. Lupoi, who served as Alabama’s defensive coordinator in 2018, was hired to be Freddie Kitchens’ defensive line coach for the Cleveland Browns this past season.
With a second year for Kitchens in Cleveland looking unlikely, it’s possible that Lupoi could be looking for a new job for the 2020 season.
Tennessee makes perfect sense.
Now, it would certainly require a big financial commitment from UT. Derrick Ansley is currently serving as the Vols’ defensive coordinator. Chris Rumph, who is Tennessee’s outside linebackers coach, is listed as the Vols’ co-defensive coordinator. So it’s not like there’s a defensive coordinator title up for grabs — which means it’ll take a significant salary to entice Lupoi to come to Knoxville (he’ll certainly have some defensive coordinator offers).
Lupoi, however, would make a tremendous addition to Tennessee’s staff. He has a reputation for being an ace recruiter (Lupoi is a big reason why Tua Tagovailoa signed with Alabama), as well as a fantastic teacher. I have no doubt that Lupoi’s addition would take UT’s recruiting, and defensive line, to the next level.
Pruitt has already proved he’s not afraid to make staff upgrades. He didn’t really have a spot for Tee Martin or Derrick Ansley this past off-season, but he made it work because he knew they would be great additions to his staff.
Lupoi would also be a great addition. And it wouldn’t surprise me to see Pruitt at least make a run at him after the 2019 season.
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