One of the biggest issues that plagued Jeremy Pruitt during his time as the head coach of the Tennessee Vols was a lack of staff continuity.
Pruitt was constantly replacing coaches on both sides of the ball. Tennessee’s players went through numerous position coaches and coordinators during Pruitt’s three years in Knoxville. That’s not a recipe for success and it was one of the reasons that UT often looked confused and out of sorts during the Pruitt era.
Fortunately for the Vols, staff continuity hasn’t been an issue during the first 16 months of Josh Heupel’s tenure.
Heupel has only had to replace one assistant coach so far — wide receivers coach Kodi Burns left for a job with the New Orleans Saints earlier this offseason (Kelsey Pope was promoted to wide receivers coach after Burns left).
Tennessee’s players know the message is going to be the same in 2022. They know what to expect from the coaching staff. There’s no “getting to know” a new position coach. Staff continuity is a small thing that doesn’t create headlines but it’s extremely important to a program’s success.
Heupel, of course, will have to replace assistants in the future. Promotions and better jobs always come along. And it’s important to remember that most of Heupel’s assistants likely have aspirations of being a head coach one day.
CBS Sports believes one of Heupel’s assistants is closer than the others to becoming a head coach. They recently named several Power-5 coordinators that could soon be head coaches and they included Vols defensive coordinator Tim Banks on their list.
As defensive coordinator for a Tennessee team that prioritizes a high-flying, quick-scoring offensive system that often produces short possessions, Banks likely won’t field a statistically superior defensive unit. But he did an impressive job last season of making the Volunteers competent defensively amid a coaching transition that left the program lacking in defensive talent. With coordinator or co-coordinator stints at Penn State, Illinois, Cincinnati and Central Michigan under his belt, Banks is a well-traveled assistant who could get a head coaching look if he can build off the promise his unit showed in 2021.
Finding a defensive coordinator at Tennessee wasn’t easy for Heupel back in early 2021. The Vols heard “no” quite a few times before landing on Banks. That’s because Heupel’s up-tempo offense puts a lot of pressure on the Vols’ defense. Quick three-and-outs can force the defense back on the field in less than 30 seconds of game clock. It’s a unique challenge that not everyone embraces.
However, if Banks can parlay a job as Tennessee’s defensive coordinator into a head coaching job, it could make the Vols’ defensive coordinator job a bit more attractive.
Heupel will have to hire a new defensive coordinator at some point, but I’m sure he’s hoping Banks waits for the right opportunity and doesn’t jump at the first job that comes his way.
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