Sources told A to Z Sports on Sunday evening that the Tennessee Vols have zeroed in on Kansas City Chiefs linebackers coach Matt House in their search for a new defensive coordinator.
House has been with Kansas City since the 2019 season. He previously served as Mark Stoops’ defensive coordinator at Kentucky for three seasons. Prior to his time at Kentucky, House was the defensive coordinator at FIU and Pittsburgh.
While House and Tennessee don’t have an official deal yet, things are trending toward House being the Vols’ next defensive coordinator. This is certainly surprising, as sources told A to Z Sports that House declined to speak to UT about the defensive coordinator opening prior to Super Bowl LV.
If a deal with House gets done, the obvious question will be what does his staff look like?
Part of the allure of being Josh Heupel’s defensive coordinator is having complete autonomy over the defense. Heupel doesn’t stray far from the offensive side of the ball, leaving the defensive coordinator as essentially the “head coach” of the defense.
Does that mean that House will have complete control over his staff (if a deal gets done)?
I’m not sure about that. For one, Rodney Garner has already been hired as the Vols’ defensive line coach. That’s a good hire, but it’s a hire that will be forced on whoever takes the job. I’ve also heard that UCF defensive backs coach Willie Martinez, who was on Butch Jones’ staff at Tennessee from 2013-2016, will also likely be on the staff. Heupel really likes Martinez.
House and Martinez don’t have a previous connection. But Martinez has worked with Garner before (at Georgia), so there would at least be some staff continuity there.
Anyway, here’s how I think a potential Matt House defensive staff at UT could look.
Matt House — Defensive coordinator/inside linebackers
Rodney Garner — Defensive line
Willie Martinez — Cornerbacks
Heupel likes Martinez a lot. He’s still the head coach, which means he has the final say over the defensive staff (as long as the athletic director signs off). Martinez has plenty of SEC experience, so this would be a wise hire.
John Jancek — Safeties
Jancek is familiar with Tennessee (he was the Vols’ defensive coordinator from 2013-2015) and he’s previously worked with Martinez (at Tennessee and Georgia) and Garner (at Georgia). Jancek, who is currently a quality control coach at Georgia, is open to returning to the Vols as an assistant. He worked with House at Kentucky in 2017 and the two have a good relationship with each other.
Alex Wittingham — Outside linebackers/Special teams
Wittingham has spent three seasons as a defensive assistant at Kansas City, working mainly with outside linebackers/defensive linemen. Wittingham, who is the son of Utah head coach Kyle Wittingham, played mainly on special teams at Utah. He was a long snapper and played on the kick return team for the Utes.
Featured image via Chiefs.com