Who will Tennessee Vols head coach Josh Heupel hire as his defensive coordinator?
That’s a question that UT fans are hoping gets answered soon.
Heupel, widely considered an offensive mastermind, has yet to hire a defensive coordinator. And there’s been very little information available when it comes to who he could be interested in hiring.
Kevin Steele, a longtime SEC defensive coordinator who was hired by Tennessee just before Jeremy Pruitt was fired, is still on staff in Knoxville. He’s certainly an option for Heupel, but it’s unclear if Heupel is interested in retaining Steele (or if Steele wants to work for Heupel).
I mentioned on Tuesday that Mississippi State defensive coordinator Zach Arnett would be a perfect fit for Tennessee, due to his experience with Mike Leach. But Arnett feels like a longshot at this point.
Another potential option for Heupel that I haven’t seen mentioned is Green Bay Packers defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery.
Heupel and Montgomery worked together at Oklahoma in 2013 and 2014. Montgomery served as Bob Stoops’ defensive line coach for those two seasons.
The former Iowa defensive lineman was actually promoted to co-defensive coordinator at Oklahoma after the 2014 season (the Sooners’ defense struggled in 2014, but Bob Stoops didn’t want to fire his brother, Mike, who was OU’s defensive coordinator).
Montgomery ended up leaving Oklahoma for the Packers instead of sticking around in Norman. It was a big loss for the Sooners, as Montgomery was a key recruiter for Oklahoma (he was the Scout Big 12 recruiter of the year in 2014).
ESPN detailed Montgomery’s importance to Oklahoma’s staff in early 2015:
Montgomery has helped OU have more success in their nationwide battles for top prospects while also developing the young talent on campus, like Jordan Phillips and Charles Tapper, into productive players.
“He’s a guy who has really contributed a lot during the last several years,” coach Bob Stoops said while announcing Montgomery’s promotion. “He’s an excellent leader, great recruiter, a guy I feel is a rising star in this profession.”
The Vols defensive coordinator job could be appealing to Montgomery because he would have complete autonomy over the defense. Heupel doesn’t get involved much on that side of the ball, so whoever he hires won’t have to worry about a “meddling head coach”.
The one concern with Montgomery is his lack of experience as a defensive coordinator. The only time he’s served as a defensive coordinator in his career was in 2005 at Northern Iowa Community College. I would prefer to see Heupel hire someone with experience.
However, this is still a name to watch, given Montgomery’s past connection to Heupel.
Featured image via Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports