The Tennessee Vols have had some tremendous assistant coaches over the years.
Former offensive coordinator Dave Cutcliffe was an all-time great assistant at Tennessee during both of his stints. The Manning family swears by Cutcliffe. And if the Manning family is on board, then there’s really not anything else you need see.
Cutcliffe isn’t the only great former assistant the Vols have had, either. Jim Chaney has been a great play-caller for the Vols for three different head coaches. Sam Pittman was an incredible offensive line coach under Derek Dooley. And John Chavis had a remarkable 13 year run as Tennessee’s defensive coordinator (unheard of these days).
But for all the good assistants there were also some pretty bad ones. Here are the five worst UT assistants from recent years.
Offensive coordinator — 2008
The blame for the Vols’ downslide over the last decade rests on Dave Clawson’s shoulders. Sure, Clawson, who is now the head coach of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, has had a nice career. But his lone season as UT’s offensive coordinator was dreadful. His offense was woefully inept and it likely led to Phillip Fulmer’s firing.
Defensive coordinator — 2012
The name Sal Sunseri will make eyes roll in East Tennessee for as long as the earth remains. Sunseri’s switch to a 3-4 defense in 2012 was a complete disaster. Which is a shame, because the Vols’ offense in 2012 was really, really good. Had the defense been just average, the Vols probably win 9-10 games. Dooley wouldn’t have been fired after the 2012 season, which would’ve meant no Butch Jones on Rocky Top.
Quarterbacks coach — 2017
Speaking of Butch Jones, his hires have the spotlight from here. When the Vols started searching for a quarterbacks coach in 2017, I didn’t think they’d hire a running backs coach. But that’s exactly what Butch Jones did. Canales spent his six years before Tennessee at North Texas and Utah State. He was a running backs/tight ends coach the year before he took over as the Vols’ quarterbacks coach. Canales seemed like a nice guy (I always enjoyed his candid media sessions) but he was as far from an SEC caliber quarterbacks coach as you can get.
Offensive coordinator — 2017
When the Vols were ready to hire a new offensive coordinator in 2017, there were rumblings that they could be interested in names like Matt LaFleur (now the Green Bay Packers head coach), Eliah Drinkwitz (now the Missouri head coach) or Mark Helfrich (most recently the Chicago Bears offensive coordinator). Instead, Jones went the comfortable route and promoted Larry Scott, who had no offensive coordinator experience at the collegiate level. Scott is a good coach (he’s now the head coach at Howard), but he’s not a coordinator. Hiring a first-time coordinator absolutely contributed to Jones losing his job in 2017.
Defensive line coach — 2017
Brady Hoke is a good coach. He’s a good defensive line coach. But his time at Tennessee was disastrous. Mostly because he (along with former AD John Currie) kicked Jauan Jennings off the team. The fact Hoke was involved in that situation (and whatever led to Jennings’ infamous rant) is enough to get him included on this list.
There’s also the fact that Hoke doesn’t know how to text without capitalizing every letter.
Featured image via KNS