The Tennessee Vols’ search for a new defensive coordinator has been messy from the outside looking in.
Tennessee has pretty much ignored Kevin Steele while swinging and missing at Louisville’s Bryan Brown, USC’s Todd Orlando, and Ohio State’s Al Washington.
(Note: I previously reported that Mississippi State’s Zach Arnett had been targeted by UT, but I was recently informed that Arnett was never contacted.)
Athletic director Danny White is someone who is extremely concerned about how a hire will be perceived by the fan base. He wants a “splash” hire — someone who generates positive headlines.
Fortunately for White, the Vols have landed in a situation where they have a couple of solid candidates that could potentially end up taking the job.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers (a former UT defensive lineman) and Wofford head coach Josh Conklin (a former Tennessee assistant) both appear to be serious candidates to be the Vols’ next defensive coordinator.
Either of these hires would be really solid (though I made my case for Conklin over Rodgers on Thursday and I stand by that). In fact, they’re both arguably better hires than names that have reportedly turned the Vols down.
It appears that the focus for Tennessee is on Rodgers, who is trying to decide if he wants to leave the NFL (where he’s been since after the 2002 season) or return to his alma mater. Rodgers probably isn’t far away from landing another defensive coordinator gig in the NFL, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he decides to stay with Tampa Bay.
If Tennessee pivots to Conklin, they need to act soon. Wofford’s season starts in just over a week. Based on conversations I’ve had, I believe Conklin would come to Tennessee. But the closer it gets to the start of Wofford’s season, the harder it would be for him to make a move.
At this point, I think Danny White needs to take a step back and let Heupel make this hire. Tennessee is in a good spot right now. Heupel can handle it from here.
I understand White being part of the vetting process, but that’s where his input should stop. He hired a football coach for a reason — let that coach do his job. Otherwise, this whole thing could head south quickly.
Update: Penn State defensive coordinator Tim Banks, who worked with Butch Jones at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, is now a factor in this search according to multiple sources. It’s unclear if Rodgers was offered the job or has declined the job.
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