Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt currently has two staff openings (defensive line and offensive line), but there could be more in the coming days/weeks.
Wide receivers coach Tee Martin and inside linebackers coach Brian Niedermeyer both have contracts that expire this month.
It seems unlikely that Niedermeyer will return in 2021. He didn’t prove to be a very good inside linebackers coach in 2020 (his first year coaching the position after working with tight ends in 2018 and 2019) and he’s also reportedly linked to the internal investigation that’s currently ongoing at Tennessee.
If Niedermeyer isn’t given a new contract, it will mean Pruitt has to somehow lure a quality inside linebackers coach to Knoxville.
That won’t be easy with Pruitt entering a “prove it” year in 2021. I doubt he’ll be able to swipe a big name from a rival program.
This means Pruitt will possibly have to find a hidden gem.
One name that could make sense is Coastal Carolina’s Chad Staggs.
Staggs currently serves as Coastal’s defensive coordinator/linebackers coach. He was a Broyles Award finalist this year (the award annually given to the nation’s top assistant coach) after a solid year with the Chanticleers.
From WMBF News:
In his second year at CCU, Staggs’ defense ranks in the top 40 nationally in 12 statistical categories including second in turnovers forced (22), third in interceptions (14), 16th in scoring defense (18.7 ppg), 18th in fumbles recovered (8), 19th in sacks per game (3.00), 20th in fourth-down conversion percentage defense (40.0 percent), 25th in passing efficiency defense (118.31), 28th in total defense (340.7 ypg), 31st in passing yards allowed (202.8 ypg), 36th in defensive touchdowns (1), and 39th in both rushing yards allowed (137.9 ypg) and third-down conversion percentage defense (37.4 percent).
There’s no obvious connection between Staggs and Pruitt/Tennessee, but this is likely the route Pruitt will need to take to find a quality assistant with experience.
Pruitt doesn’t need to hire another graduate assistant from Alabama. He needs someone with experience that he can trust to develop inside linebackers.
Staggs was the defensive coordinator at Furman before landing at Coastal Carolina. He has some SEC experience, too. Staggs was a graduate assistant at South Carolina from 2003-2007 under Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier.
This may not be an exciting option but it could be one of the better options that Pruitt will have.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports/Coastal Carolina