One of the first things that comes to mind any time a coach leaves a program is how it will affect recruiting. So, how does Tennessee's vacancy at defensive coordinator with John Jancek's departure factor into the future of Vols football?
Butch Jones and his staff do a great job of passing the phone. By that, we mean that when a recruit calls Tennessee to speak with someone in particular, they do a great job of literally passing the phone around to various coaches so they can both show added love to the recruit and so it's a team effort to land the player without all the eggs going into one basket.
Of the three Tennessee commitments in the 2016 class on the defensive side of the football we’ve already heard from, none of the three had heard the news of Jancek’s departure but also none of the three had anything negative to say about the Big Orange, meaning a new coordinator isn’t going to cause them to decommit.
“Woah, is that confirmed? I haven’t even heard about it yet. What he’s done with the defense this year is great. I don’t think he should leave. He was able to turn a young defense into a great one in just three years. That is hard to do. I don’t want him to leave is my reaction!”
“Surprised, man. No comment on this one, just surprised and need to know who the new defensive coordinator is.”
Regionally speaking, Jancek handled Greater Knoxville after former offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coordinators' roles in the recruiting department at Tennessee are not quite as extensive during the season as they are for position coaches because so much falls on their shoulders with game plans and the current roster. For example, it's rare for a coordinator under Jones to go out on a Friday night when the Vols play the following day.
"That's huge," Jancek told InsideTennessee prior to his parting ways with Tennessee. "To be able to recruit during the season...you have to do it. I'm just thankful that we have coaches that do a great job and go out and represent our university and program well. It gives me a chance to spend some time with the defense and really talk things through. I can share with them my thoughts to an extensive level. 'Hey, this is what I'm thinking.' I think that's important on Friday's. I don't want to lose that time. That's really the big thing, just talking about situational football. 'Hey guys, when you get this call, this is what I'm thinking.' If I'm not able to do that with them, I think it hampers and I think it inhibits the players. I really do.
"I tell the coaches and the players all the time that they've got to know what I'm thinking when I'm making calls, this is why I'm calling it, this is why I'm thinking that. Our coaches do a great job with that. For me to be able to reiterate that on a Friday night before the game while they're on the road recruiting, I think is big."
Jones told IT about how he prefers to make the current team his priority with the decision about whether or not to put his coordinators in planes and cars during the fall’s allotted 42 evaluation days. The lone exception being when Tennessee has that Saturday off.
As far as entering the back stretch of the recruiting cycle without a coordinator in place for both sides of the football, Jones has experience with this at Tennessee. Bajakian left for Tampa Bay on Jan. 22 last year and didn’t name Mike DeBord as a replacement until after signing day.
The NCAA Dead Period ends Jan. 13. Tennessee must hit the ground running and will start hosting blue-chip official visitors Jan. 15. It’s not imperative that Jones have a defensive coordinator in place during the last few weeks prior to National Signing Day. However, it wouldn’t hurt to have such a key position filled and in the ear of Scout five-star defenders such as defensive tackle Derrick Brown and Nigel Warrior as well as elite athletes such as Marquez Callaway, Mecole Hardman Jr. and Ahmmon Richards. All five of those say they’re coming to Rocky Top this month.
Jones and his staff also need help on the road doing in-home visits throughout the month. Those are key and it means that much more to a prospect to have multiple key staff members walk through the door and at their dinner table.
The NCAA Evaluation Period allows coaches to use 168 days from this April 15 to May 31 building relationships with prep and JUCO coaches and discovering scholarship worthy talent. A coordinator is key during this period and Jones will undoubtedly want someone in place long before then.