Steve Stripling: Defensive line/assistant head coach
Bio: Both times Butch Jones has left for a new school, it’s been Stripling who has been selected to be the interim head coach for the bowl game.
Stripling led Central Michigan to a 44-41 win over Troy in 2010 in the GMAC Bowl. Then last week he led Cincinnati to a 48-34 win over Duke in the Belk Bowl. Stripling will now rejoin Jones as his assistant head coach and defensive line coach. The Vols will hope he’s not needed as an interim any time soon.
Stripling was an offensive lineman at Colorado from 1972-75 and signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 1976. He returned to the Buffaloes in 1977 as a graduate assistant. He moved on to coach the offensive line at Northern Illinois and Indiana before moving to the defensive side.
Stripling was the defensive coordinator for the Hoosiers in 1996 and moved on to other stops as a defensive assistant at Minnesota, Louisville, Michigan State and Michigan. He joined Jones at Central Michigan in 2009 and followed him to Cincinnati in 2010.
What he has to work with: Stripling will lead the transition from a three-man front back to a four-man look. He is expected to have massive defensive tackle Daniel McCullers back. Though he might be better suited for the 3-4, McCullers could be effective as an interior defensive lineman in the 4-3.
Maurice Couch and Daniel Hood saw extensive action as defensive tackles in the 4-3 during the 2011 season. Greg Clark, Dante Phillips, Allan Carson and Danny O’Brien are some other young defensive tackles the Vols hope will develop.
Rising senior Darrington Sentimore could play end or tackle, though there’s some speculation he might not return next year. Marlon Walls and Trevarris Saulsberry are other players who could play inside or outside.
Jacques Smith will probably return to defensive end after playing linebacker in the 3-4 in 2012. Corey Miller, Jordan Williams and Trent Taylor are other options at end. Defensive ends Jason Carr and Joe Sanders are the two defensive linemen currently committed to UT, though the Vols are fighting to keep them both and will look to add more over the next month.
• Has 30 years of coaching experience and has been part of 22 bowl games.
• Has a 2-0 record as an interim head coach.
Assessing the hire: Jones obviously has a lot of trust in Stripling; he’s been his assistant head coach at his last two stops. Some of that trust might be because of Stripling’s extensive experience. He’s the most experienced coach on the staff, having served more than 20 years as an assistant coach in major college football.
Tennessee has some raw talent on the defensive front that’ll need Stripling’s tutoring. It also needs somebody to get more out of experienced players such as McCullers, Couch and Sentimore.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS
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