Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt made a splash on Friday afternoon by replacing cornerbacks coach Terry Fair with Derrick Ansley, who coached defensive backs for the Oakland Raiders in 2018.
Ansley, who will likely have a defensive coordinator role and command a salary near $1 million a year (according to John Brice), is a massive get for Tennessee. He was a well regarded coach during his one season in the NFL and he’s a terrific recruiter.
The addition of Ansley, however, doesn’t change the fact that the Vols’ current staff has some holes. Specifically, Tennessee doesn’t have a special teams coordinator. And they don’t have anyone on staff with significant experience coaching special teams.
It seems obvious that Pruitt has some more moves up his sleeve. Unconfirmed rumors that David Johnson, who is expected to shift from wide receivers coach to running backs coach with the addition of Tee Martin, could leave the staff have been floating around for weeks.
A photo of Tee Martin with former Vols running back Jay Graham that was posted on Instagram on Saturday evening served to accelerate those rumors.
Jay Graham 👀🤔 pic.twitter.com/zgbmK7DYud
— zach ragan (@zachTNT) February 10, 2019
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Graham just happens to be in East Tennessee when Pruitt is trying to finalize his 2019 coaching staff.
Graham, who coached running backs at Tennessee in 2012, worked alongside Pruitt at Florida State in 2013. The former Vol standout also coached special teams at Florida State, so it would solve that issue for UT.
Here’s what a potential staff with Graham could look like:
- Jim Chaney — Offensive coordinator
- Tee Martin — Co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers
- Jay Graham — Running backs/special teams
- Brian Niedermeyer — Tight ends
- Will Friend — Offensive line
- Chris Weinke — Quarterbacks
- Kevin Sherrer — Inside linebackers
- Chris Rumph — Outside linebackers
- Derrick Ansley — Secondary
- Tracy Rocker — Defensive line
I didn’t list any defensive coordinator titles for now, because it’s unclear how those responsibilities will assigned next season. Sherrer is currently Tennessee’s defensive coordinator, with Rumph serving as co-defensive coordinator. But with Ansley expected to receive a defensive coordinator title, it means either Sherrer or Rumph will likely lose their title. I’m not sure what Pruitt will choose to do there, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Ansley becomes the primary defensive coordinator and Sherrer is simply listed as inside linebackers coach next season.
Staff titles aside, this would be a damn good staff for the Vols next season (it’s great even without Graham). Swiping Chaney from Georgia and Ansley from the NFL is simply incredible. And then adding Martin, and potentially Graham, says more about Pruitt than folks probably realize. Martin declined an opportunity to join Tennessee’s staff under Butch Jones, and Graham left after working with Jones for only two months.
Martin and Graham both know what it takes to win at Tennessee. They clearly didn’t want anything to do with Jones’ version of UT football. But Martin obviously believes in Pruitt’s vision. Bringing Graham back would just solidify that former Vols from the golden age of Tennessee football believe that Pruitt will return the storied program to greatness.
Regardless of what happens with Tennessee’s coaching staff in the coming days/weeks, it’s very clear the the Volunteers aren’t sparing any expense when it comes to giving Pruitt the resources he needs to be successful.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports