The Tennessee Vols’ coaching staff will look a little different in 2019, thanks to the departure of offensive coordinator Tyson Helton.
Helton, who was introduced as the new head coach at Western Kentucky on November 27, hasn’t been replaced yet by Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt.
The early signing period, combined with Pruitt’s perceived desire to “nail the hire”, has caused Tennessee’s search for a new offensive coordinator to drag into the new year.
But eventually, likely in the near future, Tennessee will make a hire. In fact, there’s a possibility that more than just one hire could be made, which would mean some staff shuffling could take place.
Here’s what I think an ideal (and realistic) coaching staff could look like for the Vols next season.
First, I expect the defensive side of the staff to look the same as it did last season.
- Defensive coordinator/inside linebackers: Kevin Sherrer
- Co-defensive coordinator/outside linebackers: Chris Rumph
- Special teams coordinator/safeties: Charles Kelly
- Cornerbacks: Terry Fair
- Defensive line: Tracy Rocker
The offensive side of the coaching staff is where I expect more than one change to be made.
- Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks: Steve Sarkisian*
- Co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers: Tee Martin*
- Running backs: David Johnson
- Tight ends: Brian Niedermeyer
- Offensive line: Will Friend
So here’s what I think could, and should, go down. Steve Sarkisian seems like an ideal fit to be the Vols’ next offensive coordinator. He runs the type of offense that Pruitt wants to run. And the two coaches crossed paths in 2016 at Alabama.
VolQuest reported this week that Tennessee had a conversation with Tee Martin and the term “co-offensive coordinator” was tossed around. While Martin ultimately didn’t pan out at USC as the Trojans’ offensive coordinator, there’s no doubt he’s one of the nation’s top recruiters. And he’s also one of the better wide receivers coaches in the nation.
Martin worked with Sarkisian at USC, so there’s familiarity between the two. The former Vol quarterback spoke highly of Sarkisian before the national championship game in 2017, telling AL.com “Steve’s a motivator. He’s very high energy and very creative”. Martin added “If Sark wants to take a shot – and he likes it – he’ll do it more than one time. If it’s a trick play and it’s something he believes in, then he’s going to punch the button. You like that in a play-caller.”
(As a side note, Martin mentioned that Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, who is a candidate to transfer, is the type of quarterback that Sarkisian “loves”, noting “Jalen is the type of quarterback Steve loves….a dual-threat-type player that can run and throw it and very smart”.)
A Martin/Sarkisian combination would be lethal on the recruiting trail and I think they could get the job done on the field as well. The Vols aren’t looking to reinvent the wheel with their next offensive coordinator. Their main objective is to continue to recruit elite players and make sure those players execute on the field. Proper execution has as much to do with an offensive coordinator’s success as the play that’s called.
In this scenario, David Johnson would move from wide receivers to running backs. It’s possible Martin could also coach running backs (though he’s never coached running backs before, but neither had Chris Weinke, who would be let go in this scenario). Johnson, however, coached running backs at Tulane.
Featured image via Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports