The Tennessee Vols still have an open spot on their coaching staff that needs to be filled.

Tennessee promoted quarterbacks coach Joey Halzle to offensive coordinator last month to replace Alex Golesh (who left to become the head coach at USF) as the program’s offensive coordinator.

The Vols, however, still need to hire a tight ends coach (the position that Golesh coached).

There hasn’t been much movement on hiring a tight ends coach as UT head coach Josh Heupel has been dealing with recruiting and transfer portal madness the last several weeks (plus Orange Bowl prep during the month of December).

Most of the talk around the tight ends coach hire has been speculation. One name that keeps popping up, however, is UCLA tight ends coach Jeff Faris.

Faris is a Knoxville native (he played at Knoxville Catholic) who played college football at Duke under former Vols offensive coordinator Dave Cutcliffe. Faris then served on Cutcliffe’s staff from 2012 to 2021 before joining UCLA’s staff this past season (Cutcliffe retired after the 2021 season).

The former Blue Devil has returned to Knoxville over the years to run youth football camps.

Harrison Smith, Knoxville Catholic alumnus and Minnesota Vikings Safety and Duke assistant football coach Jeff Faris working with young football players at the Smith & Smith Catholic Football Camp at Knoxville Catholic on Monday, July 8, 2019.
Kns Catholic Football Camp

Faris doesn’t have a previous connection to Heupel or Heupel’s style of offense.

But he shares a similar mindset.

Since arriving in Knoxville in early 2021, Heupel has preached that Tennessee is going to be the most aggressive team in the country while also having a lot of fun.

In 2021, when Faris was promoted to co-offensive coordinator at Duke, he was asked about his offensive philosophy.

And his answer sounded like something straight from Heupel.

“I like to have a lot of fun, I like to be aggressive,” said Faris (via “I have a lot of energy. I’m young…we love the kids. Having fun, looking forward to going to work.”

“We are going to be aggressive,” added Faris. “We are going to put those guys in position to make plays. At the quarterback position, we have to know when to take the appropriate shots and when to take care of the football. There are going to be opportunities to make plays. We’ve got a big pool of players to make plays. We’ve got to make the defense defend every blade of grass.”

Aggressive, fun, making the defense defend every blade of grass.

That’s Tennessee football in a nutshell.

Heupel could still decide to promote someone already in the building. Or maybe he hires someone who we haven’t even heard about yet. We should know in the coming days/weeks who the Vols’ tight ends coach will be in 2023.

But based on Faris’ connection to Knoxville and his shared philosophy, it certainly feels like there’s a good chance that the former Cutcliffe disciple ends up being Tennessee’s new tight ends coach.

Featured image via Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

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