The Tennessee Vols, thanks to the departure of safeties/specials teams coach Charles Kelly (who left last month for a job at Alabama) currently have 10 on-the-field assistant coaches.
But while Tennessee has the correct number of coaches, the ratio of offensive to defensive coaches is a bit off.
For now, the Vols have six offensive coaches and four defensive coaches. Job titles haven’t officially been announced by Jeremy Pruitt, but here’s the best guess (with current coaches) as to who will coach what position in 2019.
- Jim Chaney — offensive coordinator
- Tee Martin — co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers
- David Johnson — running backs
- Chris Weinke — quarterbacks
- Will Friend — offensive line
- Brian Niedermeyer — tight ends
- Kevin Shererr — defensive coordinator/inside linebackers
- Chris Rumph — co-defensive coordinator/outside linebackers
- Tracy Rocker — defensive line
- Terry Fair — cornerbacks
There’s no obvious candidate to coach special teams (Johnson once coached returners, but that appears to be the extent of special teams coaching experience among the coaches on the staff) and Chaney doesn’t have a position listed above. It’s possible that Niedermeyer could move to the defensive side of the ball, but the bulk of his experience is with linebackers. Moving Niedermeyer doesn’t make a lot of sense.
That’s why I still think there will be some staff movement after National Signing Day. And I think Weinke will be the coach on the move.
Chaney is a well regarded quarterbacks coach (he had plenty of success in his previous stint as Tennessee’s quarterbacks coach). And I think it’s always an ideal situation for a program’s offensive coordinator to also coach quarterbacks.
Weinke, on the other hand, has only two years of experience as a quarterbacks coach (with the Los Angeles Rams) and that stint didn’t go so well (Jared Goff’s career took off when Weinke left).
The best move for Pruitt to make would be to let Weinke go and allow Chaney to coach quarterbacks. That would then free him up to hire a special teams coach that can also coach safeties (Pruitt, obviously, will spend plenty of time coaching the secondary).
Special teams is an important facet of the game. And Kelly did a nice job with the unit. The Vols absolutely don’t need to write off special teams and just hand it to a coach who doesn’t have much experience with it.
One interesting option for the Vols could be Chase Gibson, who is currently the linebackers/special teams coach at Colorado State. Gibson served as a quality control/assistant secondary coach at Tennessee from 2013-2015.
Pruitt is obviously putting a premium on recruiting connections when it comes to his assistant coaches. That’s an important aspect, but Tennessee still needs to make sure they have coaches who can positively affect what happens on the field.
For now, special teams is getting overlooked. But I have a strong feeling Pruitt will remedy that before spring practice gets underway.
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