Tennessee Vols head coach Josh Heupel is having a tough time finding a defensive coordinator.

The Vols have been in communication with several candidates and they haven’t been able to close a deal so far.

Tennessee went hard after Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington, who appears to be staying in Columbus. The Vols also spoke with Louisville defensive coordinator Bryan Brown and USC defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

Mississippi State defensive coordinator Zach Arnett, who is someone I think would be a great fit, is not expected to be a factor. Kevin Steele, who is still technically on Tennessee’s staff (and has been recruiting for the Vols), doesn’t appear to be a factor, either.

Fortunately for the Vols, there are still some quality candidates out there. These are the guys that I think Tennessee should be in contact with ASAP.

John Jancek — Georgia quality control coach

Jancek knows the SEC. He knows Tennessee. And he has several connections that could benefit the Vols. Willie Martinez was on staff with Jancek at Tennessee under Butch Jones. Martinez was also on Heupel’s staff at UCF (and sources say that Heupel likes Martinez a lot). Jancek was also on staff with defensive line coach Rodney Garner at Georgia. There’s a lot here that makes sense — especially since Jancek is the best defensive coordinator the Vols have had over the last decade.

Kacy Rodgers — Tampa Bay Buccaneers DL coach

Rodgers played at Tennessee and he has defensive coordinator experience in the NFL. That will pretty much sell any fan on this potential hire. Rodgers hasn’t coached at the college level since he was at Arkansas in 2002, so I’m not sure how interested he’d be in the job. But the Vols should at least gauge his interest.

Tennessee Vols

David Reeves — UAB DC

Reeves has done a tremendous job at UAB over the last several years. Reeves helped UAB achieve top 10 defenses nationally over the last three seasons. Reeves was a secondary coach at UT-Martin in 2012 and he was a graduate assistant at Alabama in 2005 and 2006.

Joseph Gillespie — Tulsa DC

Gillespie is a Texas native who came to Tulsa in 2015 after spending 20 years as a high school football coach. This past season, Tulsa had a top 20 defense nationally under Gillespie. And he was one of the few defensive coordinators who was able to stop Josh Heupel’s UCF offense last season (Tulsa beat UCF 34-26 in 2020).

Travaris Robinson — Miami DB coach

Robinson has been a defensive coordinator in the SEC before (at South Carolina from 2016-2020). He’s also coached at Auburn and Florida, so he knows the conference very well. In 2017, under Robinson’s guidance, South Carolina led the SEC in takeaways. That’s something that would pair well with Heupel’s up-tempo offense.

Jerry Montgomery — Green Bay Packers DL coach

Montgomery is a name I mentioned last week. He worked with Heupel at Oklahoma. Montgomery was set to be the co-defensive coordinator for the Sooners after the 2014 season, but he chose to take a job in the NFL instead.

Featured image via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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