Coaching Board: Offensive coordinator

Stay updated on Tennessee football with a membership to InsideTennessee. Sign in to take a look at some of the potential candidates to fill a major role with the Big Orange.

Butch Jones didn't wait on the media to present a question before addressing some of the attributes necessary to work under him.

Jones at his introductory press conference after being named the head coach at Tennessee.in December 2012: "I can assure that we will put together the best football staff in the country — not just the Southeastern Conference, but the entire country. I have a checklist of what I'm looking for. First of all, it starts with character. I want individuals with tremendous character, and then I want great teachers — great teachers in the game of life, great teachers in the game of football, fundamentalists, motivators.

"There's a difference between teaching and presenting. Anybody can present anything. What we want is great teachers and individuals who have passion to be here at the University of Tennessee."

From the start of Jones' career in Knoxville until Thursday, not one full-time assistant coach left the program. It took the lure of the National Football League, working under a familiar colleague and most likely the first pick in the NFL Draft to get the Tennessee offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach to depart for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Jones must now find a replacement for arguably the most important assistant's job on his staff. Here's a look at some potential candidates with InsideTennessee's Coaching Board:

Zach Azzanni

Tennessee wide receivers coach, recruiting coordinator

Commonly called the “best wide receivers coach in the country” by boss Butch Jones, Azzanni has carved a name for himself as both a relentless recruiter and one of the best position coaches in the nation. Two of the perks here if Jones legitimately looks at Azzanni as a candidate is he knows the man, knows his worth and the transition to Azzanni would be more seamless as it’d simply be a promotion. He understands the practice speed and the game speed at which Jones wants to work and fully understands the expectations as an evaluator and recruiter.

The father of three does have on-field coordinator experience having been the passing game coordinator at Florida (2010) and the offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky (2011). Being the primary playcaller in the SEC ain’t no joke. So, Jones would have to know that Azzanni is ready for that step. The flip of it is, if Azzanni goes all in for the position and Jones goes another route, how would that affect Azzanni? Of course, that’s a hypothetical on top of a hypothetical.

Azzanni also understands the personnel on Team 119, has relationships built with several members of the 2015 commitment class and has shown he can take a completely depleted group of players (2013 wide receivers corps) and turn them into productive pass-catchers.

Walt Bell

Arkansas State offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach

In deciding if Bell can stack up schematically, Butch Jones does need to leave the Anderson Training Center as the Red Wolves played the Volunteers back in September, scoring 19 points and totaling 331 yards.

Dating back to their time as fellow staff members at North Carolina, Bell is close to Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson. The advantage for Tennessee here is that it’s undoubtedly a step up to become a playcaller in the Southeastern Conference. Win here and you can likely win anywhere.

Bell, who is from Dickson and earned his degrees at Middle Tennessee, played wide receiver for the Blue Raiders and should have recruiting ties in the South. He was a 2014 Frank Broyles Award nominee.

Mike DeBord

Michigan sport administrator with Olympic sports teams

A concern with DeBord is that he hasn’t coached since being the Chicago Bears tight ends coach (2010-12). Prior to that spot and a two-year stint with the Seattle Seahawks, DeBord coached 26 seasons in college football, including being the Central Michigan head coach (2000-03) and two stops at Michigan (1992-99, 2004-07). With DeBord as their offensive coordinator, the Wolverines won the 1997 national championship. As a result, he earned national assistant coach of the year with The Sporting News. As the head man over the Chippewas, his four teams went a combined 12-34.

DeBord and Jones have years of experience together as Jones was Central Michigan’s running backs coach in 2000 before elevating to offensive coordinator 2001-03. If DeBord is a legitimate candidate to replace Bajakian, one would have to assume the hire would be made quickly.

DeBord is a native if Delaware County, Indiana, and played offensive line at Manchester College.

Matt LaFleur

Notre Dame quarterbacks coach

Under LaFleur’s leadership last fall, Irish quarterbacks completed 59.8-percent of their passes for 3,711 yards with 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. They also ran for a net of 470 yards and 10 TDs.

The Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, native was an offensive assistant at Central Michigan in 2004 when Butch Jones was the offensive coordinator and running backs coach. LaFleur got his master’s from there in 2011.

The former Western Michigan quarterback and wide receiver transferred to Saginaw Valley State and played QB there 2000-02. Prior to working in South Bend under Brian Kelly, LaFleur was with the Houston Texans as an offensive assistant 2008-09 and the Washington Redskins quarterbacks coach 2010-13, working under Super Bowl winning coach Mike Shanahan.

Rhett Lashlee

Auburn offensive coordinator

The first question that comes to mind is why leave Auburn? Why leave an elite offensive mind like Gus Malzahn? Answer: 1. Call your own plays, 2. Have your own offense, 3. Winning at a second SEC stop is attractive for a head coaching résumé. Still a tough pull since the Lashlee-Malzahn relationship goes back to 1999 in Springdale, Arkansas.

With Lashlee’s help, Auburn had the second largest turnaround in college football history with the 2013 Tigers improving by eight games from 2012. That team also led the nation in rushing (328.3 yards per game). In 2014, Auburn scored 35.5 points per game and averaged 485 yards per game — all that offense versus an SEC Western Division that had seven other bowl eligible teams.

Lashlee is a two-time Broyles Award finalist, earning the last spot with Auburn in 2013 (transforming Nick Marshall from a Georgia defensive back to JUCO quarterback to starting quarterback in the SEC) and again in 2012 as the Arkansas State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Matt Lubick

Oregon passing game coordinator, quarterbacks coach

Having Marcus Mariota at quarterback certainly helped the Ducks passing attack but knowledge of the Oregon system and tempo make many assistants that go through Eugene attractive to other programs and even pro franchises. The 18-year coaching veteran has been with Oregon’s staff the last two falls, which were two of the best in program history. In 2014, Oregon totaled 547 yards per game, 90 touchdowns and 74 plays per game.

Lubick got to Duke at February 2010 and eventually became the Blue Devils’ recruiting coordinator under former Tennessee assistant and current Duke head coach David Cutcliffe. Lubick was a 2012 Frank Broyles Award nominee as the school’s passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach.

The Bozeman, Montana, native also worked at Arizona State, Ole Miss and Oregon State, playing a key role in signing Vontaze Burfict with the Sun Devils and Dexter McCluster in Oxford. He is the son of former Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick and spent three years coaching in the Golden State.

Calvin Magee

Arizona associate head coach, Co-offensive coordinator, running backs coach

Magee just finished his third season at Arizona and 25th in coaching, helping Rich Rodriguez with a Wildcats offense that averaged 34.5 points per game and amassed 6,491 yards (3,945 passing, 2,546 rushing).

Magee was on staff at West Virginia under Rodriguez with Butch Jones 2005-06. Jones was an intern with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1987-89 while Magee was a tight end.

Having coached both at Tampa Catholic High School and at South Florida between 1990-2000 and having played with the Buccaneers from 1985-89, Magee has deep roots to that area of the Sunshine State, which is currently mined by Tennessee running backs coach Robert Gillespie.

Ed Warinner

Ohio State offensive coordinator, offensive line coach

The next step for the assistant to coach Urban Meyer may very well be a head coaching job but Warinner’s work in Columbus is well documented and he played a key part in the Buckeyes winning the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship. In 2014-15, the Ohio State offense scored 44.8 points per game and averaged 511.6 yards per game.

Prior to working in C-bus, Warinner was the running game coordinator, offensive line coach under Brian Kelly at Notre Dame. Thus, a coach with which Butch Jones has coached can vouch for Warinner’s abilities. Getting Warriner to leave his current post would take a truck load of cash most likely.

If knowledge of a spread attack and tempo are important to Butch Jones, then coaches like Warriner are sure to be on the short list. The 31-year coaching veteran is an Ohio native and lettered in both baseball and football at Akron. Thus, packing up and moving south would put him slightly out of his element.

Others to keep an eye on:

Kirk Ciarrocca (Western Michigan offensive coordinator)

Jeff Durden (Chattanooga offensive coordinator)

Scott Frost (Oregon offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach)

Doug Meacham (Texas Christian co-offensive coordinator)

Mike Norvell (Arizona State offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach)


Inside Tennessee Top Stories