The Tennessee Vols made a surprise move this week by hiring former Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
ESPN’s Chris Low reported on Tuesday that Steele has reached a deal to join UT’s staff as a defensive assistant.
It’s unclear what role Steele will fill on Tennessee’s staff.
Derrick Ansley is currently the Vols’ defensive coordinator, while Brian Niedermeyer is still listed as Tennessee’s inside linebackers coach.
Niedermeyer’s contract, however, expires this month.
Tennessee needs a defensive line coach, but Steele has never coached defensive linemen during his coaching career.
Beyond the obvious questions about what role Steele will fill at Tennessee, there’s also the question of what this means for UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt.
It was reported in recent weeks that Pruitt wasn’t being allowed to hire new assistants due to the ongoing internal investigation at Tennessee.
Does this hire signal that Pruitt is for sure coming back next season?
I’m not sure that it does.
I think Steele, because of his deep ties to Tennessee, was an obvious choice to join the staff regardless of who the Vols’ coach happens to be.
This feels like a move that UT is making to take advantage of Steele being available. They didn’t want to risk losing him to another program.
It could also be a move that gives the illusion of stability at Tennessee right now.
Players are transferring, commits are talking and graduate transfers are considering their next move. In other words, it’s not a good time for a program to be in limbo.
We don’t know when Tennessee’s investigation will wrap up. But this move can at least give players/recruits an idea of the direction of the program.
Ultimately, I think the hiring of Steele means Tennessee wants to keep Pruitt. But they don’t know if that will be possible. With Steele on staff, it gives the Vols a failsafe in case Pruitt is fired/let go (either now or a couple of months from now).
Steele isn’t an ideal long-term head coach, but he’s someone that could maybe keep the ship from sinking in the event that things head even further south in Knoxville.
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