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Brady Hoke joins Vols, Walt Wells promoted, Don Mahoney out

Sweeping changes to Tennessee coaching staff have been a top of the offseason. More moves officially rounded into form Tuesday.

Butch Jones continues to make changes and tweaks to the Tennessee coaching staff.

The fifth staff in Knoxville under Jones’ leadership will have another new face as Brady Hoke will be Tennessee’s defensive line coach, announced by the university Tuesday evening.

"We are excited to welcome Brady and Laura Hoke to the football family,” Jones said in a release. “We feel extremely fortunate to get someone of coach Hoke's caliber that will continue to develop our defensive linemen while also providing expertise and experience to all of our players and coaching staff. He has an extensive track record of success as a head coach and on the defensive side of the ball. He will be a great fit to our entire organization."

Jones also promoted Walt Wells as offensive line coach in place of Don Mahoney, whose contract was set to expire this February.

"Coach Wells did a great job last season serving as a quality control coach on the offensive side of the ball,” Jones said, “and we are looking forward to him taking over the offensive line. He has extensive experience as an offensive line coach and will do a great job with our players."

Steve Stripling vacates the D-line job now-filled by Hoke. Stripling will stay on as Tennessee’s director of football program development.

"Coach Stripling and I have a special relationship and I know how valuable a resource he is for myself and our coaching staff,” Jones said. “This new position will allow him the opportunity to be involved in every facet of our football program, not just the defensive side or the defensive line room. Every coach and player will benefit greatly from coach Strip.”

Hoke, 58, comes to Knoxville after being Oregon’s defensive coordinator and defense ends coach. He also takes over for Stripling as the associate head coach.

The 33-year coaching veteran has worked at Grand Valley (Mich.) State (1983), Western Michigan (1984-86), Toledo (1987-88), Oregon State (1989-94), Michigan (1995-2002) and San Diego State (2009-10). As head coach of the Wolverines (2011-14), Hoke earned a four-year mark of 31-20, including 18-14 in the Big Ten.

"Tennessee has a great tradition, a great program and a rabid fanbase,” said Hoke, who played linebacker at Ball State. “That is something you always want to be involved with. To come here and be a part of this staff — coach Jones and I have known each other a long time — it's something that we are very excited about and can't wait to get started.

"I think we will work great together. These guys are all very professional at what they do. They are all in it for the right reason — to see kids grow from a spiritual standpoint to an academic and an athletic standpoint. Coach (Bob) Shoop and I have been able to talk some and get together and I know coach (Tommy) Thigpen. It's something that we are very excited about. We can't wait to get it started."

Wells served as a Tennessee’s offensive quality control coach in 2016, primarily learning about the offensive front alongside Mahoney and then-offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, who has since left for Indiana and been replaced by Larry Scott.

"I would like to thank coach Jones for giving me this opportunity,” Wells said. “I’m looking forward to getting to work with our offensive staff and our group of offensive linemen as we continue to develop in the spring. We have a solid nucleus of players returning and a group of young players eager to learn and make an impact this season."

Wells is a Nashville native with family in the Bowling Green, Kentucky, area. His résumé involves upwards of 21 years of coaching, including roles at Eastern Kentucky (1997-2002, 2015), New Mexico State (2014), South Florida (2013) and Western Kentucky (2003-12).

Mahoney’s contract was not renewed after leading the Big Orange blockers for the last four seasons.

Stripling vacates the leadership of the Vols defensive line after joining Tennessee’s staff for the 2013 season.

"I'm really excited about this new opportunity,” Stripling said. “I have enjoyed the past four seasons at Tennessee and I'm looking forward to continuing to see this football program grow into one of the best in the country. It's a chance for me to be heavily involved in all areas of the football program on a daily basis. I think I can be a valuable resource to coach Jones, our players and coaching staff."

Earlier this offseason, Jones replaced Willie Martinez with Charlton Warren as defensive backs coach. Mike Canales was hired away from Utah State and named Tennessee quarterbacks coach. Former graduate assistant Nick Sheridan left for Central Michigan but recently left that post for a job at Indiana with DeBord.

Photo by Danny Parker

Tennessee offensive line coach Walt Wells


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