Things continue to stay close to the vest for Tennessee football under Josh Heupel. Whether or not that’s by design remains up in the air, but there at least appeared to be some movement on multiple fronts Thursday.
The Vols have reportedly added Jerry Mack as running backs coach, according to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports. Mack has been offensive coordinator of the Rice Owls the past three years under head coach Mike Bloomgren. Before that, he was head coach of the North Carolina Central Eagles from 2014 to 2017, winning three conference championships.
Mack’s coaching career includes two years with the Delta State Statesmen, JSU and Central Arkansas Bears each, one with the Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions and Memphis Tigers and two with again with the South Alabama Jaguars before taking over at UNC Central. Thamel announced Tennessee football’s addition of him on Twitter.
Sources: Rice OC Jerry Mack expected to be the next RB coach at Tennessee. Mack is former head coach at North Carolina Central. He also served as QB coach and associate head coach at Rice.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) February 11, 2021
A native of Memphis, Tenn., Mack played with the Jackson State Tigers in 1999 and then the Arkansas State Red Wolves from 2001 to 2003. With his arrival, the Vols’ offensive staff under Josh Heupel has been rounded out, based on a Monday report from John Brice of Football Scoop. You can read our take on the other offensive staff members by clicking here.
Al Washington turns down defensive coordinator offer
Ohio State Buckeyes linebackers coach Al Washington had been the top name to become the next UT defensive coordinator. However, it was reported that he turned down the offer Thursday evening. Austin Ward of Letterman Row and Bill Rabinowitz of BuckeyeXtra both reported he is apparently staying at OSU.
In an article on Football Scoop earlier in the day, Brice had reported that Washington was leaning toward staying OSU. A sticking point was the current state of Rocky Top, and the story says Washington has reached out to other coaches about the potential for success there.
With Washington not coming, Tennessee football could turn to Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive line coach and UT graduate Kacy Rodgers. His name came up, according to Brice. A four-year defensive end for the Vols out of Humboldt, Tenn. under Johnny Majors, Rodgers helped the Vols win two SEC Championships from 1988 to 1991 and finished with 131 career tackles.
Since 2003, Rodgers has been a defensive coach in the NFL, and he has defensive coordinator experience, serving as Todd Bowles’ defensive coordinator for the New York Jets from 2015 to 2018. Given this background, he may be Heupel’s best get.
At least one defensive staff member has been hired, though. Thamel reported on Twitter Wednesday evening that Auburn Tigers defensive line coach Rodney Garner was joining UT in the same role. Thamel reported it on Twitter after Jayson Swain of The Swain Event tweeted out that Garner had been seen on campus earlier in the day.
Sources: Tennessee is hiring Rodney Garner as the defensive line coach. He was last at Auburn and brings extensive SEC experience, including stints at Georgia and Tennessee.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) February 12, 2021
Highly respected SEC DL coach Rodney Garner has been in the #Tennessee football building today. Good sign! Would be great hire. Great recruiter. He was the only reason I took a visit to UGA when he recruited me.
— Jayson Swain (@SwainEvent) February 11, 2021
Brian Stultz of AuburnWire reported back in January that interim Vols head coach Kevin Steele was considering adding him to the UT staff. An Auburn graduate, Garner has been coaching in the SEC since 1990. He was with the Tigers from 1990 to 1995, UT of all teams in 1996 and 1997 and then the Georgia Bulldogs from 1998 to 2012 before joining Gus Malzahn’s staff in 2013.
We have no idea how the defensive coordinator position will shake out, but as we wrote on Wednesday, there’s no reason to panic. Tennessee football has some solid names still out there on defense, and the offensive staff has been rounded out. Given Heupel’s focus and why he was hired, that’s all that matters.
— to allfortennessee.com