Thanks to coordinator John Chavis, tackles coach Dan Brooks, ends coach Steve Caldwell and secondary coach Larry Slade, the 2008 Vols finished No. 3 nationally in total defense (263.5 yards per game), No. 4 in pass defense (160.4 yards per game), No. 10 in scoring defense (16.8 points per game) and No. 12 in rushing defense (103.1).
On the heels of this outstanding effort, however, all four were relieved of their duties. Why? Because an anemic offense couldn't carry its share of the load, leading to a 5-7 record and the forced resignation of head coach Phillip Fulmer.
While life clearly is not fair, there is some justice in the world. Chavis and Slade already have landed on their feet. Chavis has been hired as defensive coordinator at LSU and Slade has secured the secondary coach position at Louisville.
Given his resume', it was a safe bet that Chavis wouldn't be unemployed for long. He was tabbed 2006 Assistant Coach of the Year by his peers in the American Football Coaches Association and his 2008 defense allowed just 16.8 points per game. If you discount five touchdowns scored while UT's defense was not on the field – two on interception returns, one on a fumble return, one on a punt return and one on a blocked-punt return – the stop unit surrendered a mere 13.8 points per game.
Slade's qualifications are pretty impressive, also. His 2008 Vol secondary gave up just eight passing touchdowns. Only one team in all of college football – Southern Cal with six – allowed fewer.
Given their accomplishments while on The Hill, Brooks and Caldwell should be working again before long.
Brooks is widely acknowledged as one of the top tackle coaches in college football. His proteges include All-American Jesse Mahelona, first-round NFL Draft pick Albert Haynesworth, 2000 Outland Trophy winner and first-round NFL Draft pick John Henderson, first-round NFL Draft pick Justin Harrell and five more guys who are on NFL rosters – Aubrayo Franklin (49ers), Turk McBride (Chiefs), Rashad Moore (Falcons), Tony McDaniel (Jaguars) and Darwin Walker (Panthers).
Caldwell, meanwhile, has established a reputation as a quality recruiter. His key signees included Cedric Houston and Bret Smith from Arkansas, Gerald Jones from Oklahoma, Parys Haralson and Xavier Mitchell from Mississippi and J.T. Mapu from Hawaii.