Seeing so many coaches passing through Big Orange Country got me thinking: Who were the Vols' best assistants of the past three decades (1982-2012)?
I decided to post my top three aides at each position, then invite InsideTennessee readers to counter with their selections. Today's topic is Tennessee's best quarterback coach of the past 30 years.
Here are the candidates:
Walt Harris (1983-88) had tough luck with knee injuries. He got a lot out of Alan Cockrell, who had to come back from a torn ACL as a freshman. Harris then had Tony Robinson headed for superstardom until a torn ACL and off-the-field problems short-circuited his career. Harris did an excellent job of turning Jeff Francis into a productive college quarterback before leaving The Hill to become head coach at Pacific.
Jim Hofher (1989) coached the combo of Sterling Henton and Andy Kelly to modest success in his lone year on staff, then left Big Orange Country to become head coach at Cornell.
David Cutcliffe (1990-998, 2006-07) already had been on staff for seven years when he was promoted to QB coach in 1990. He did great work with Kelly, developed Heath Shuler and Peyton Manning into first-round NFL Draft picks, then made a national champion out of Tee Martin. "Coach Cut" left Knoxville to become head coach at Ole Miss following the 1998 regular season but returned in 2006 to rescue Erik Ainge from mediocrity. After completing just 45.5 percent of his passes in 2005, Ainge completed a school-record 67.0 percent in 2006. Ainge connected on a school-record 325 passes as a senior in 2007. Cutcliffe left to become head coach at Duke following the '07 season and remains in that capacity to this day.
Bridging the gap between Cutcliffe's two stints as Vol quarterback coach was Randy Sanders (1999-2005). His seven-year run saw him oversee Tee Martin's senior year, four years of Casey Clausen and Ainge's first two college seasons. Martin couldn't match his '98 magic in '99 but Clausen thrived under Sanders, moving into second place behind Manning in virtually all of Tennessee's career passing categories. Ainge enjoyed a strong freshman year under Sanders' guidance but struggled mightily in 2005, when a quarterback controversy involving himself and Rick Clausen divided the team and undermined the season.
Dave Clawson served as quarterback coach/offensive coordinator during a 2008 season most Big Orange fans would prefer to forget. None of the Vols seemed to understand Clawson's system, least of all quarterback Jonathan Crompton, who completed just 51.5 percent of his passes for 889 yards.
David Reaves took over as quarterbacks coach in 2009. Whether he, head coach Lane Kiffin or offensive coordinator Jim Chaney deserves the credit, Crompton was a different QB that fall. The senior passer rallied from a slow start to complete 58.3 percent of his throws for 2,800 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Darin Hinshaw (2010-11) handled the quarterback coaching responsibilities in Derek Dooley's first two years as head coach. Hinshaw took a painfully raw freshman named Tyler Bray and helped him put up some huge numbers in 2010, mainly against second-tier opponents. Bray again faced very few quality defenses in 2011 due to a fractured thumb that sidelined him for the meaty part of the schedule.
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney (2012) doubled as quarterback coach in Dooley's final season. Under Chaney's direction, Bray posted more big numbers (3,612 yards, 34 TDs, 12 interceptions, 59.4 completion percentage) but struggled in the fourth quarter of several winnable games.
My picks for the top three quarterback coaches of the past 30 years:
1. David Cutcliffe
2. Walt Harris
3. Randy Sanders