Azzanni using lessons from 'that other place'

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Recruiting in the Southeastern Conference is a 365-day-a-year process and as cutthroat as any league in the country. It's a different animal.

Tennessee head man Butch Jones entrusting wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni as his recruiting coordinator shows he has complete faith the former Central Michigan wide receiver can dodge the bullets and can grind with the elite.

Glancing at any résumé of an assistant coach, fans want to see experience at a BCS school or in the NFL. While Azzanni hasn't logged time in the professional ranks, the Utica, Mich., product has moved quickly up the ladder to some of the most prestigious organizations in the FBS as an assistant at both Florida (2010) and Wisconsin (2012).

"I learned more in one year at that place than I have my entire career as far as the scope and magnitude of recruiting at this level," Azzanni said of being at Florida.

Steelers wide receivers Antonio Brown is one of many that have learned the position under Azzanni.
(Danny Parker/

While he hasn't been an NFL aide as of yet, he did tutor eventual Pro Bowler and current Pittsburgh Steeler Antonio Brown while at Central Michigan. As Vol fans saw with former wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett, a list of known talent an assistant has taught the position to can certainly help gain the respect of current players and turn the heads of high school prospects.

Azzanni is already starting to catch on to the rivalries that exist in the SEC Eastern Division. Of course logging time at Florida already helps in that knowledge and it's a school he now refers to as "that other place."

No matter his time in Gainesville or other schools in the midwest, he gives a genuine, positive vibe about being on staff at Tennessee.

"There's nothing like this in the country. This place is special," he said.

Azzanni spoke highly of former Orange & White legends and wants to use the status of Wide Receiver U to elevate the game of current Volunteers.

"If we're not as good as those guys, the program gets worse; the position gets worse," said Azzanni, pointing at former Vols Alvin Harper, Joey Kent and Carl Pickens.

Having an eye for talent and the ability to move forward without going through numerous channels is one of the reasons why Azzanni feels like he can succeed at his post while in Knoxville. He has a clear understanding for the type student-athlete Butch Jones wants on The Hill.

"I think that I understand what coach Jones wants and what this staff wants," Azzanni said. "So, I'm going to do my best. We've got a heck of a recruiting department that are on board and they're rolling. Our support up there is fantastic.

"My strength is getting organized, understanding what our staff wants, what coach Jones wants. He doesn't have to tell me what he wants."

Check out InsideTennessee's high definition video of Azzanni speaking with the Knoxville media for the first time by clicking play below:

Danny Parker is currently the Managing Editor, Recruiting Analyst and Staff Photographer for He was previously the sports editor at Shelbyville Times-Gazette. He joined the InsideTennessee team July 2011.

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