Mike DeBord officially departing Tennessee on Tuesday with boxes of personal belongings means the Volunteers will have someone else in charge of handing the offensive weaponry coach Butch Jones and staff have assembled in recent years.
“We’ve been through this before, and we’ve actually been through this pretty much at this time of year,” Jones said Tuesday night. “I think the big thing you want to do is you can’t rush. We’re going to be very, very patient. We’re going to take our time. When we find the right individual, we find the right individual. This obviously is a very, very critical hire. You have to make sure you get in front of that person and you really get to know them."
Jones tabbed Mike Bajakian as his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach when they came over from Cincinnati in December 2012. DeBord replaced Bajakian in 2015 and played a vital part in the Big Orange capturing the Outback Bowl and Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl with back-to-back 9-4 finishes.
DeBord departed for the Indiana offensive coordinator job, following his roots back to the Hoosier State, replacing Kevin Johns, who was on Kevin Wilson's staff before Indiana went with Tom Allen to lead the program.
“Obviously the University of Tennessee is a place where people want to be,” Jones said. “It’s a destination place. It’s going to be a challenge even to return all the text messages already that I’ve received. I think people around the country with the amount of interest, they understand what we’re building here, what we have here, and they want to be a part of it. But again it’s doing the right fit, getting the right fit for everything.”
No financial parameters have been set before Jones, he said. DeBord vacates an annual salary of $500,000. The decision will belong to Jones. The staff will be involved to “some extent.”
Let's get into some of the candidates on the board.
Tennessee passing game coordinator, wide receivers coach
Tennessee’s vertical passing game was met by some negativity after the 2015 season that resulted in an Outback Bowl win and 9-4 record as an area the Vols needed to improve. In 2016, that aspect did exactly that and the team’s two leading pass catchers — Jauan Jennings and Josh Malone — combined for 90 catches for 1,552 yards with 18 touchdowns. Freshman Tyler Byrd came to Rocky Top as a U.S. Army All-American Bowl defensive back but quickly acclimated himself to the Tennessee offense under Azzanni’s guidance and caught 15 passes for 209 yards.
The father of four does have on-field coordinator experience, owning the passing game coordinator title with the Vols this past season and having been the passing game coordinator at Florida (2010) and the offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky (2011).
Azzanni received $355,300 in salary and bonuses from Tennessee this season.
Middle Tennessee State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach
Franklin’s offenses have put up some eye-popping numbers and his his coaching the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft is going to be sexy to recruits. In 2015, Jared Goff was Franklin’s quarterback at Cal, leading a unit that recorded 44 passing touchdowns and 6,879 yards of total offense.
Franklin's Middle Tennessee State offense scored 41 points or more six times in 2016. Runners averaged 6.0 yards per carry with quarterback Brent Stockstill owning a 31-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Franklin, who also coached the Blue Raiders to the 2009 New Orleans Bowl, spent six years at Cal (2013-15) and Louisiana Tech (2010-12).
Franklin has Southeastern Conference experience, working as OC/QC at Auburn prior to going to Louisiana Tech. He also held down three different offensive duties at Kentucky (1997-2000).
He is a native of Princeton, Kentucky, and turns 60 on Aug. 29.
Things went south quickly on Helfrich as head coach of the Oregon Ducks. Helfrich lost his job in Eugene days after the Ducks lost to Oregon State 38-24 to cap a 4-8 season, becoming the first Oregon coach fired in 40 years. The Ducks lost the “Civil War” for the first time since 2009, while earlier in the year Washington ended an 11-year drought against Oregon with a 70-21 home win.
The eight-loss mark came in spite of averaging 35.4 points, 226.4 rushing yards and 265.2 passing yards per game.
Chip Kelly brought Helfrich, 43, to Eugene in 2009, although Kelly maintained playcalling duties. He replaced Kelly on Jan. 20, 2013. Eight months later, the Ducks blew out visiting Tennessee 59-14 at Autzen Stadium in Butch Jones' third game at the helm for Jones' first loss with the Volunteers. That Helfrich-led team wound up ranked No. 9 in the nation following a victory over Texas in the Alamo Bowl.
In 2014, Oregon snapped Florida State’s 29-game winning streak in a 59-20 destruction of defending champion Florida State. The Pac-12 champions then lost to Ohio State 42-20 in the national final. Quarterback Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy, becoming the first in school history to do so.
His contract had three years remaining with a buyout of $11.6 million.
Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks coach
LaFleur has experience under pressure after having held down duties at Notre Dame and in the National Football League.
With LaFleur as his quarterbacks coach, Atlanta Falcons star Matt Ryan completed 69.9 percent of his 534 passes in 2016 with 38 touchdowns against just seven interceptions en route to an 11-5 record with an NFC South Division crown.
On Sunday, the Falcons scored on their first five possessions in a 38-32 win over the New Orleans Saints. The Falcons finished the regular season just 10.2 yards behind the Saints for having the No. 1 offense in the NFL.
In 2014, Notre Dame 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 touchdowns.
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 quarterback 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.
Kelly, 53, told FOX Sports that he evaluates “all jobs individually” and “wouldn’t rule anything out.”
Kelly was fired as head coach of the 49ers after one season in San Francisco that resulted in a 2-14 record. Prior to that Kelly coached the Philadelphia Eagles to a 26-21 record in three seasons.
The former head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles (26-21 record) and most recently San Francisco 49ers (2-14) isn't hurting financially and has even said on record he's willing to look at coordinator jobs.
In college, Kelly compiled a 46-7 mark as the head man of the Oregon Ducks, including a 48-13 win over Derek Dooley's Tennessee Volunteers on Sept. 11, 2010. At Oregon, Kelly led his team to a national championship game and wins in both the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl.
The Eagles paid Kelly $500,000 last year. Kelly will get at least $6.5 million in 2017 after signing a four-year, $24 million deal with the 49ers one year ago. However, since both have let Kelly go, it remains to be seen while will be paying Kelly what’s owed. He could retire from football and still make $18.5 million over the next three years.
Tennessee tight ends coach, special teams coordinator
The Sunshine State native is coming close to completing his first full year on Rocky Top and has already proven himself in his first SEC gig, especially as a recruiter in talent-rich Florida. Jason Croom and Ethan Wolf finished tied for fourth on the Vols' top receivers category, catching 20 passes apiece for a combined 481 yards with two touchdowns.
Scott served roles as a high school relations director, graduate assistant, tight ends coach, offensive line coach and running backs coach at South Florida in working his way up the chain. That blue collar got him a gig at Miami (Fla.) as tight ends coach, and he started gaining more momentum as an elite name by doing a sound job as the interim coach of the Hurricanes after Al Golden was fired.
Jones said he will discuss the vacancy within the staff to gauge interest and those that have never been in charge of playcalling will not have that void on their résumé held against them.
Scott makes $375,000 annually at Tennessee.