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Judging Tennessee’s 2019 Coaching Staff

Jul 23, 2019 | VOL Articles, VOL Football 2019

During SEC Media Days, Jeremy Pruitt made a very bold statement. Pruitt told the media, “I believe this is one of the great coaching staffs in the country… the guys on this staff have been a part of 16 national championships.” Let’s take a look at Tennessee’s Staff this season, and you can be the judge. 

Jim Chaney (Offensive Coordinator)

History: Jim Chaney is one of (if not the best) Offensive Coordinators in the South Eastern Conference. He’s a veteran play caller who’s been coaching for nearly 3 and a half decades. Chaney’s career as an Offensive Coordinator began all the way back in 1988, where he coached Cal State Fullerton. He continued to work his way up the coaching ranks until he landed a job as the Offensive Coordinator for the Purdue Boilermakers in 1997, where he would have tremendous success and coach an all time great QB, in Drew Brees. Chaney ultimately left Purdue in 2006 to accept an offer from the St. Louis Rams. He coached the Rams Offensive Line from 2006-07, before moving to Tight Ends in 2008, a position that he would remember for years to come. Chaney then received an offer to become an Offensive Coordinator, yet again. This time his offer came from University of Tennessee head coach, Lane Kiffin, who has recently became head coach of the Vols after the “retirement” of Phillip Fulmer. Chaney gladly accepted and became Offensive Coordinator for Tennessee, where he showed great potential, increasing their offensive productivity by more than 60%. However, all of that came to a halt on a late night in January of 2010. To the absolute shock of Tennessee fans, Athletic Department Staff, and the entire city of Knoxville, Kiffin elected to leave the University and return to the West Coast and take the head coaching position at USC. Chaney, who was caught off guard by Kiffin’s decision was one of the few coaches who decided to remain at Tennessee. One short coaching search later, Louisiana Tech Head Coach, Derek Dooley confirmed that he would retain Chaney as OC for the Vols. Chaney’s offense was decent but everything came together in 2012, when he developed a great relationship with the newly hired Offensive Line coach, Sam Pittman. In 2012, the Vols Offense was unstoppable! There was only one problem, the Defense was one of the worst in history. The Vols finished 5-7, and Derek Dooley was fired. Chaney coached the Vols to one final victory against Kentucky as the interim head coach, before newly hired Cincinnati head coach, Butch Jones announced he would not retain Chaney. Chaney found a new home at the University of Arkansas, where he stayed from 2012-14 as Bret Bielema’s Offensive Coordinator. Chaney would go on to coach at Pittsburg for one season before Georgia Head Coach, Kirby Smart hired him at UGA. Chaney had great success at Georgia, his offense won the SEC Championship in 2017, and barely came up short of winning a National Title in 2017, falling to Alabama in overtime. After another decent season in 2018, Jim Chaney shocked many when he elected to leave the University of Georgia for the same position at Tennessee. According to John Brice, a former writer for Volquest (Rivals) and a very reliable reporter close to the University, Georgia had gone to nearly 1.5 million dollars, all of which was turned down to go to Tennessee. Chaney’s experience is unrivaled in College Football, and Vol Nation is extremely excited to have him back on Rocky Top, next season. 

Offensive Philosophy: Coach Chaney is a very flexible Coordinator. Depending on the Head Coach, he can run both run based and pass based offenses. His changes as a Coordinator have been noticeable at each of his stops. At Tennessee, he was thought to be a great Coordinator, although he got pass-happy at times, while the exact opposite is true at Georgia. Most believe he ran a little too much at UGA. So what will he run at Tennessee? Most believe Chaney will run a balanced offense that utilizes every play. He is expected to use the Tight End position more than Tyson Helton did, and target Dominick Wood-Anderson much more. Chaney’s goal as OC will be to capitalize off of mistakes made by opposing defenses, and make every play count. 

Derrick Ansley (Defensive Coordinator)

History: Coach Ansley was also hired by Jeremy Pruitt this off-season to replace former DC Kevin Sherrer, who was demoted to Special Teams and Inside Linebackers. Coach Ansley is much younger than Chaney, and is a bit more of a mystery than Chaney is. This is his first job where he has play calling abilities, so it will be very interesting to see what he changes with the defense. For those of you who are unaware, Ansley will be the designated play caller next season. Last season it was Pruitt, but he has reportedly decided to take more of a CEO role. Ansley’s coaching career started in 2010, where he was a GA at the University of Alabama. It was soon after, when he landed his first bigtime job, as Defensive Backs coach at The University of Tennessee. Ansley did pretty well, he coached Justin Coleman and Brian Randolph, both of who would go on to have careers in the NFL. After Derek Dooley was fired in 2012, he (like all UT assistant coaches) was not retained by Coach Butch Jones. He was hired by the University of Kentucky in 2013, where he coached cornerbacks. He earned a promotion in 2015, when he became the co-Defensive Coordinator and Secondary Coach, although he did not have play calling abilities. He had great success in Lexington, as he developed UK’s defense into a squad that would record 23 turnovers, which was 2nd in the SEC. In 2016, Ansley left Lexington for the same position at the University of Alabama. In Tuscaloosa, he developed a close friend in Alabama Defensive Coordinator, Jeremy Pruitt. Pruitt and Ansley worked together to build the best defense in the nation during both of his seasons at Alabama. Ansley coached 2 first round draft picks, and 6 overall draft picks. His 2 year stint in Alabama came to an end in 2018 when he left for the same position with the Oakland Raiders. Ansley was seen as one of the best young coaches in the NFL, loaded with potential. The Raiders showed tremendous progress under Ansley, which was why Head Coach Jon Gruden was so disappointed when he left the raiders to become the DC at Tennessee. Ansley’s defense will be great on Rocky Top, the only question is how great? Next year we’ll find out.

Defensive Philosophy: Unlike Chaney, Ansley’s defense is much more unknown. We can only speculate because this will be his first chance to call plays, but based on what he did at other stops we can expect a strong secondary that’s main goal is to force turnovers to get the ball back to the offense. Ansley is also an elite recruiter, you can expect him to recruit talented ball hawks on the trail. Next year we’ll know much more about Ansley’s Defensive Philosophy.

Chris Rumph (OLB Coach)

History: Coach Rumph’s career began as a player at the University of South Carolina, he knows what it takes to play big time College Football, which helps him recruit on the recruiting trail. After a short stay as the Defensive Backs coach at South Carolina State, Rumph landed his first major job as OLB coach at the Memphis. While at Memphis, he attributed to 3 straight bowl appearances, and a defense that finished 9th in the nation during his first season at Memphis. In 2006, Clemson hired Rumph to take over as their Defensive Line Coach, where he stayed until 2010. The Tigers were in the top 25 defenses for all 4 seasons under Rumph. He did such a great job at Clemson that Nick Saban hired him to coach his defensive line at Alabama. He stayed in Tuscaloosa until 2013, during that time he developed a great relationship with a young Alabama coach by the name of Jeremy Pruitt. Under Rumph and Pruitt, they finished top 5 in defense. Rumph put 5 linemen in the NFL, before leaving Tuscaloosa. After one year at Texas, he went to the University of Florida as the Defensive Line coach. From 2015 to 2017 Rumph put 5 of his defensive linemen in the NFL. He would leave Florida for Tennessee after the firing of Jim McElwain.

Kevin Sherrer (Special Teams & ILB Coach)

History: Coach Sherrer’s first major job was as the Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Backs coach at Southern Alabama in 2013. Sherrer lead Southern Alabama to massive improvements. They ranked 2nd in defensive scoring within the C-USA, as well total overall defense. Sherrer would leave Southern Alabama to become the OLB coach at Georgia in 2014. Sherrer put a total of 3 LB in the NFL during his time at the University of Georgia which stretched through 3 seasons and 2 head coaches. He was retained by Kirby Smart after the firing of Mark Richt in 2015. Sherrer developed star Georgia linebacker, Lorenzo Carter before leaving Athens to go to Knoxville in 2018. Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt hired Sherrer to be the Defensive Coordinator, while avoiding giving him play calling ability. However, this year Pruitt demoted Sherrer to make room for new DC, Derrick Ansley. 

Tee Martin (WR Coach/ Passing Game Coordinator)

History: Tee Martin is a fan favorite at Tennessee, and there’s a big reason why, that all Vol fans are aware of. Tee Martin’s career started as a player at the University of Tennessee. In 1997, he learned under Peyton Manning, and would go on to win the Volunteers a National Title in the 1998 season. The legendary QB started his career Morehouse College, where he was the Passing Game Coordinator. He coached in the High School ranks for 2 seasons, before he became the QB Coach for New Mexico in 2009. In 2010, he returned to the SEC but to the despise of many Vol fans, he was coaching against Tennessee. He was the WR coach at Kentucky in 2010 and 2011. He would then leave the Wildcats for the same position at USC, but he would later be given a promotion in 2016, making him Offensive Coordinator. Martin had success in 2016, he won the Rose Bowl and became the 247 Sports National Recruiter of the Year. In 2018, when USC decided to make a change at OC, Tennessee quickly hired their legendary QB as their WR Coach.

Will Friend (Offensive Line Coach) 

History: Will Friend is considered a weak link by some Tennessee fans, but is that a fair assumption? Well, Friend started his career as an Offensive Line coach, he was the OL coach at West Alabama. He stayed in the High School ranks for a season, until he became a GA for Georgia in 2003-04. In 2005, Gardner-Webb hired Friend as their Offensive Line coach. He upgraded yet again when UAB hired him in 2007, where he stayed until 2010. Georgia hired Friend in 2011 to take over as their Offensive Line coach. He remained at Georgia until 2014, when he took over as Offensive Coordinator for Colorado State. He stayed until 2018, when he took over as Offensive Line coach for his close friend and former roommate at Alabama, Jeremy Pruitt. After his hiring at Tennessee, he had a rough year (as expected) on the offensive line. However, Friend brought in the #1 Offensive Line class in the nation for Tennessee during their 2019 Recruiting Cycle. In the end, Friend has spent his entire career as an OL Coach, he knows what he’s doing, UT just needs to give him time to do it.

David Johnson (RB Coach)

History: David Johnson took over as WR Coach for Tennessee in 2018, but this year he’ll be coaching the Running backs. Johnson’s first major job was back in 2012, when he took over at Tulane as the RB and TE coach. He did a great job and was hired by Memphis in 2015, where he remained until 2018. When he was hired by Pruitt in 2018 as the WR Coach, many didn’t know his name. However he convinced many after Tennessee’s elite season at the WR Position. It will be interesting to see how 2019 turns out for David Johnson.

Brian “The Moose” Niedermeyer (TE Coach)

History: Niedermeyer has a great personality, he’s a fan favorite for Vol Nation and is known for his elite recruiting. Niedermeyer is the reigning Recruiter of the Year, and helped UT land elite recruits such as Darnell Wright, Henry To’oto’o, and Quavaris Crouch. His first major job was at East Texas Baptist University, where he coached the WR. He then became a GA at Georgia, and later at Alabama. In 2017, he became the Assistant Director of Recruiting Operations at Alabama. Before Pruitt hired him as TE Coach. A hire that is paying off every day for UT. It is clear that Niedermeyer has an extremely bright future ahead of him, and Tennessee fans are very happy to have this elite recruiter on their coaching staff.

Tracy Rocker (Defensive Line Coach)

History: Tennessee is very happy to have the 1988 SEC Player of the Year wearing orange on their sidelines. Rocker has had loads of success at every stop he’s made during his career. His first major job was in 1997, when he became the Defensive Line coach for Troy. He took over at Cincinnati in 2002, before upgrading again to Arkansas in 2003. He remained in Fayetteville until 2008, when he was hired as the Defensive Line coach at Ole Miss, he then left for the same position at Auburn. After his 2 season stay with the Tigers, he upgraded yet again to the Tennessee Titans. He was hired as DL Coach for the Titans in 2011, and he stayed there until 2013. Georgia picked him up as their DL coach under Mark Richt, and stayed until 2016. He was then hired by Tennessee in 2018.

Chris Weinke (QB Coach)

History: Tennessee fans are very familiar with Coach Weinke, the former Florida State QB and Heisman winner. Weinke was a RB Coach for the Vols last season, however he was switched to QB following the hiring of Tee Martin. Weinke’s first job was Head Coach of IMG Academy, a very talented high school in Florida. Afterwards he jumped into NFL waters as the Quarterbacks coach for the Rams. He did not do well to put it mildly and was hired as an Offensive Analyst at Alabama in 2017. After the 2017 season concluded Jeremy Pruitt hired him to be the Running Backs coach at Tennessee. He switches to Quarterbacks this season.

We’ll leave it up to your interpretation, if Tennessee has one of the best coaching staffs in the country. However, the mixture talent and experience seems to make the answer very clear.

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