Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt had to make several coaching staff moves this offseason.
Linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer left for the New York Giants and running backs coach David Johnson reunited with Mike Norvell at Florida State.
Anytime a head coach has some staff openings, it’s an opportunity to upgrade the coaching staff.
Which is what Pruitt has done every time he’s had an opening (bringing Tee Martin, Derrick Ansley and Jim Chaney last year for example).
And he did it again this time around.
To replace Johnson, Prutt hired former Vols running back Jay Graham away from Texas A&M.
Pruitt then moved tight ends coach Brian Niedermeyer to inside linebackers and promoted Joe Osovet to an on-the-field role coaching tight ends.
Another move that Pruitt made was reportedly hiring Chip Long as an analyst.
All of these moves make Tennessee better — specifically when it comes to recruiting.
Graham’s track record speaks for itself. Jimbo Fisher kept him on his staff for seven seasons between two different schools — that doesn’t happen if Fisher doesn’t believe Graham is an elite position coach/recruiter. Hiring Graham gives the Vols a much needed ace recruiter in North Carolina (Graham’s home state).
Moving Osovet to an on-the-field role gives Tennessee a recruiter who can help the Vols make a lot of progress in the northeast. Osovet has plenty of connections in the Mid-Atlantic. Tennessee’s new tight ends coach is already utilizing those connections, too. Osovet recently visited 2021 four-star offensive tackle Nolan Rucci in Pennsylvania.
What about Memphis?
One of the biggest concerns about losing David Johnson was the all-important Memphis connection he provided.
The Vols had a lot of success in Memphis during the 2020 recruiting period (signing five players from the area). A lot of that success was undoubtedly because of Johnson.
With Johnson gone, who helps land the Memphis recruits?
A coach doesn’t necessarily need to have a connection to Memphis to recruit the area well, but it certainly helps to be familiar with the schools in the area. Those relationships are built over a period of time and are important.
That’s where Chip Long comes into play.
Long spent a year as the offensive coordinator at Memphis in 2016 (working alongside David Johnson), before shuffling off to Notre Dame for three seasons.
While Long won’t be an on-the-road recruiter for Tennessee, he can still utilize his Memphis connections to help land key recruits for the Vols.
Sometimes all you need is a coach to get you in the door. Long could be the guy if needed for Tennessee.
Over the last two years, Pruitt’s had several opportunities to make the Vols better.
He’s nailed it every single time.
Featured image via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports