Legislation brought on by the NCAA Division I Council allows for Football Bowl Subdivision schools to bring on a 10th assistant coach.
For months there were questions marks about the possibility of the staff addition. Now it’s here, and we know precisely when the visors and whistles will be handed out.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones provided his thoughts on the help that’s on its way.
“The great thing about that is we have some time to really research and look into that and that’s something that we’ve been prepared for for a long time,” Jones said. “Everything is about the structure of your staff and what’s needed and kind of a balancing act from personality to recruiting to position wise. So, again, we’ll have a plan in place. That’s something we’ve been prepared for, but I do think it’s healthy when you look at the player-coach ratio. I believe if you look at all the sports, football is the lowest. So an opportunity to mentor a coach I think it’s a great addition to the coaching profession, I think it was greatly needed.”
Add the graduate assistant coaches (4) and quality control coaches (10 at Tennessee) on top of the soon-to-be 10 assistant coaches as well as the head coach, the ratio for football may not quite be the lowest (although quality control personnel are limited on the practice field). Football pays a majority of the bills at athletics departments all over. So if six defensive tackles need their own position coach, so be it.
Much of Tennessee’s staff for the 2017 season is brand new. Save for Larry Scott’s promotion from tight ends coach/special teams coordinator to offensive coordinator, Jones is working alongside new associate head coach/defensive line coach Brady Hoke, new special teams coordinator/defensive backs coach Charlton Warren, new wide receivers coach Kevin Beard, new quarterbacks coach Mike Canales and new offensive line coach Walt Wells.
Given what Jones said about how he’s known about this move coming and how much time he has (265 days) to find the right person for the job, it’s safe to say Tennessee will have a release about its new position coach on Jan. 9, 2018.
The bowl season will be mostly over and the press release figures to arrive during an NCAA Dead Period for recruiting. That means this new coach is sure to be met with ample, immediate attention. The position that person leads may be about as intriguing as who that person is.
Of the nine men presently assisting Jones, five work on the offensive side. That gives off the assumption that “Coach Ten” will aid the defense.
“I tell you what, man, I think that’s going to be interesting,” Scott said. “I think a lot of people are going to actually assign that position to whatever they feel like their needs are whether that’s special teams, whether that’s a second D-line coach or a second secondary coach or however it may roll. You see a lot of people going to inside and outside receiver coaches and different things like that. So there’s a lot of different things you can do, and I think it’s totally just based on, you know, the need of the program, how you’re built and the direction you’re going.”
Second-year Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop doesn’t roam as often as some others that perform the same role. Shoop tends to work with safeties while the defensive backs coach handles the cornerbacks and nickelbacks.
Since so many opposing offenses spread the field with formations and personnel, the Vols most often use a 4-2-5 alignment. So does linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen really need another full-timer at his side? One guy mans the MIKE while the other concentrates on the WILL? Don’t see it happening.
“You’ll see different programs going all different ways and have different thoughts and different opinions,” Jones said. “You have to do everything you think is a great fit for your program.”
References to the Southeastern Conference being a “line-of-scrimmage league” echo throughout the Anderson Training Center. Tennessee has split up duties along the defensive front in the past, and it didn’t set the world on fire with the defensive ends it signed in the 2017 class.
Taking it a step further, Jones makes a majority of his hires through his tree of relationships made over the decades he’s been doing this, which isn’t abnormal. He also isn’t afraid to transport people with ties to Michigan down to Rocky Top.
The odds-on favorite to be the 10th staff member named to Jones’ staff at Tennessee to coach up defensive ends? Mike Elston. Look him up.