KNOXVILLE – Just four days after taking over as head coach at Tennessee, Butch Jones appears to have his staff mostly in place.
Jones vowed to bring the best staff in the nation to Knoxville in his introductory press conference. Per his Memorandum of Understanding, he is allotted a minimum of $3 million per year to pay his assistant coaches.
Tennessee hasn’t confirmed any moves on Jones’ staff, but here’s what the staff is shaping up to look like based on reports and what sources have told Nooga.com:
Offensive coordinator: Former Cincinnati offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian appears to be locked in to this position at Tennessee as well. CoachingSearch.com and Volquest.com are among the news outlets that have reported it.
Running backs coach: Jay Graham will be retained from former coach Derek Dooley’s staff. Sources confirmed that news to Nooga.com over the weekend and multiple other outlets have reported the same.
Wide receivers coach: This spot isn’t settled yet. Multiple outlets have reported that former UT quarterback Tee Martin is in Knoxville on Monday to interview for the job. Martin is currently the wide receivers coach at Southern California. Jones could also bring T.J. Weist with him from Cincinnati. Weist is a 24-year coaching veteran who has sent 14 receivers to the NFL during his career.
Tight ends coach: Jones is bringing Mark Elder with him from Cincinnati, an associate sports information director from UC has confirmed. Elder also coached special teams at UC, making him the most likely candidate to do the same in Knoxville.
Offensive line coach: Jones is also bringing Don Mahoney with him from UC, according to the Bearcats’ sports information department. Though many fans and players voiced support for keeping Dooley’s offensive line coach, Sam Pittman, Mahoney had been with Jones for the last six years.
Defensive coordinator: Former UC defensive coordinator John Jancek is the likely pick here. UC has confirmed Jancek is coming, though CoachingSearch.com has mentioned at least the possibility of him taking a demotion and being just a position coach. That doesn’t seem likely at this point, though.
Linebackers coach: Former Auburn assistant Tommy Thigpen is already Knoxville bound, according to AL.com. Thigpen spent time coaching linebackers and defensive backs at Auburn, so there’s some flexibility in how he could be used at Tennessee.
Defensive backs coach: Former Auburn defensive backs coach and Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez will join the staff, according to CoachingSearch.com.
Defensive line coach: It appears that Steve Stripling, who is serving as UC’s interim head coach for its bowl game against Duke, will come fill this position after he coaches in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 27.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS
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