Mark Elder: Tight ends coach/special teams coordinator
Bio: Elder journeyed through jobs as a graduate assistant or assistant coach at Akron, Lehigh, Iona, Wayne State and Michigan before getting his first full-time assistant position at the FBS level at Central Michigan in 2007.
Working under current Tennessee coach Butch Jones at Central Michigan, Elder coached linebackers for the Chippewas from 2007-09. He then followed Jones to Cincinnati, where he had stints coaching tight ends, running backs, safeties and special teams during his three years with the Bearcats.
Elder played defensive back at Case Western Reserve University (Ohio). He was a three-time all-conference selection.
What he has to work with: He has a challenge. The Vols will not return senior tight end Mychal Rivera, the SEC’s leader in receiving yards by a tight end (36 receptions, 562 yards). Senior Ben Bartholomew, who split time between tight end and fullback, will also depart.
That leaves him with rising junior Brendan Downs (three receptions, 39 yards) and Justin Meredith, who redshirted in his first year in Knoxville as he dealt with a nagging hamstring injury. Those are the only two traditional tight ends on the roster. Former linebacker Greg King, former defensive lineman Joseph Ayres and offensive lineman Alex Bullard are among other players who contributed to the depth at tight end in 2012.
The Vols currently hold a commitment from tight end Chauntez Jackson of Inglewood, Calif. and are also actively looking to add a junior college tight end.
On special teams, Michael Palardy, who handled nearly all of the kicking duties in 2012, will return. He brings a lot of experience, but has been inconsistent. Devrin Young returns as a strong option at kick and punt returner, but Cordarelle Patterson will be missed if he leaves for the NFL early.
What he's said:
• “No better way to spend my Bday than my first day on the job for UT. Working to bring another National Championship back to Knoxville. #VFL,” Elder said via Twitter (@UTCoachElder) on Dec. 10.
• Coached Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead, the 2011 Big East Offensive Player of the Year and a second-round pick of the St. Lois Rams in 2012.
• Coached in seven bowl games, one BCS bowl and has been part of four conference championships.
Assessing the hire: Elder is one of five assistants coming with Jones from Cincinnati. He was a graduate assistant at Michigan, but beyond that, this will be first experience at a major program.
While he doesn’t have SEC experience, he has coached all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams. He might have the most diverse coaching experience on the staff.
He’s somewhat unproven, but he’s one of the younger and more energetic coaches on staff. He’s already been to Nashville, Memphis, Mississippi, Kentucky and California in his first week on the job recruiting.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS
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