The Tennessee Vols could be on the verge of hiring former Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke as an assistant coach.
A position on the Vols’ staff opened on Tuesday when Tennessee and running backs coach Robert Gillespie parted ways. According to VolQuest’s Jesse Simonton, Weinke is the front runner for the open position on the staff.
ASA College HC Joe Osovet is slated to take an off-the-field offensive analyst role with the Vols. Per @Volquest_Rivals sources, former Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke has emerged as the frontrunner for Tennessee’s open staff spot. https://t.co/1saQvKgHbu
— Jesse Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) February 14, 2018
I’ve went back and forth on how I would feel about this. Pruitt has been trying to get Weinke on the staff since December, so it’s not a huge surprise that the former Florida State quarterback is an option here.
What would be surprising, however, is if Tennessee hired Weinke to coach running backs. Weinke, who was the head coach at IMG Academy from 2010-2014, has never coached running backs before. While that doesn’t mean he can’t, it would definitely be a new experience for him.
Fortunately for Pruitt, he has some wiggle room with how the staff duties could be assigned. Wide receivers coach David Johnson, for example, has coached running backs before. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Johnson switched to running backs and Weinke took wide receivers. It seems much more common to see former quarterbacks coach wide receivers (Tee Martin for one).
But is hiring Weinke in any capacity the best move?
I’m not sure, to be honest.
Weinke doesn’t really have any recruiting experience and he’s never been an on-the-field coach at the college level. His only experience as a position coach came with the Rams, where he was a quarterbacks coach for two seasons.
Case Keenum, who is now with the Minnesota Vikings, spoke glowingly of his time with Weinke in St Louis, telling the Pioneer Press that the former Seminole helped him a “tremendous amount” while adding “He’s my guy. I love him to death.”
On the other hand, however, Rams quarterback Jared Goff took a huge step forward from his rookie year (with Weinke as his position coach) this past season under a new quarterbacks coach. In 2016, Rams legend Eric Dickerson publicly questioned Weinke’s ability to coach quarterbacks, saying “I just believe that they don’t have the right coaches in place for him (Goff)”.
Dickerson might have been right, since Goff took a huge step forward the next season. But it’s not like Weinke has a bad track record, either. He’s been credited with helping develop Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and Ryan Tannehill.
Honestly, I’m on the fence with this one. I think Weinke has the potential to be a solid assistant coach for the Vols. But I also question why Nick Saban didn’t promote him at Alabama when he had a wide receivers coaching position open (Saban hired Josh Gattis from Penn State).
Tennessee needs good teachers. They need coaches that will help erase the bad habits created under Butch Jones.
If Pruitt thinks Weinke is that guy, then he should make the hire. Obviously Pruitt knows what he’s doing, I’d just like to see a coach with more experience hired.
But I’ll wait and see the results before I slam (or praise) the hire if it ends up being Weinke.
Featured image via USA Today