Tennessee had a busy day in the football department on Thursday, and it looks like the puzzle pieces are finally starting to come together.
After a number of reports over the last couple of weeks, including two from Thursday, Josh Heupel’s inaugural staff is beginning to have some real identity. It also looks to have a unique combination of SEC veterans and rookies, as Tennessee finds itself entering a brand new era.
After collecting these reports, here is some speculation on what the Tennessee football staff will look like heading into 2021. Tennessee has yet to announce any of these hirings officially as of the publication of this piece.
These names include Rodney Garner, Jerry Mack, Kodi Burns, Glen Elarbee, Alex Golesh, and Joey Halzle.
Even with no signs of a defensive coordinator having accepted a position just yet, it seems as though Tennessee and Coach Heupel have made their first hire on the defensive side of the ball.
On Thursday afternoon, Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports reported that Tennessee is planning to hire Rodney Garner as the defensive line coach.
Sources: Tennessee is hiring Rodney Garner as the defensive line coach. He was last at Auburn and brings extensive SEC experience, including stints at Georgia and Tennessee.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) February 12, 2021
Garner is a veteran coach in the SEC, having spent the last eight seasons under the Gus Malzahn staff at Auburn.
His coaching career also includes 15 seasons at Georgia and one season at Tennessee prior to his run in Auburn.
According to 247Sports, Garner has nine five-stars and over 50 four-star recruits in his Top All-Time Commits rankings.
A few hours before the Rodney Garner report but on the other side of the ball, Pete Thamel also reported that Tennessee is expected to hire Jerry Mack as running backs coach.
Sources: Rice OC Jerry Mack expected to be the next RB coach at Tennessee. Mack is former head coach at North Carolina Central. He also served as QB coach and associate head coach at Rice.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) February 11, 2021
Both similarly and differently to Garner, Mack brings longstanding collegiate football experience to the Tennessee coaching staff, however, Mack’s visions have never been implemented in the SEC.
Mack brings a resume touting 16 years of quality experience, including one head-coaching stint. Mack won three MEAC Championships in his four years as a head coach (2014-2016) and won the conference Coach of the Year honors in 2016.
On Feb. 8th, John Brice of Football Scoop reported that Kodi Burns was planning on reuniting with Coach Heupel at Tennessee as the new wide receivers coach.
Burns was let go of during the regime change at Auburn this past season and had originally signed on to be apart of Heupel’s UCF staff starting in 2021.
Under Malzahn at Auburn, Burns was the co-offensive coordinator and passing game coordinator from 2016 to 2020.
As expected, it looks like a good number of the former UCF assistants will also be joining Heupel’s staff on Rocky Top.
According to a tweet from 4-star offensive lineman recruit Austine Uke out of Parish Episcopal in Texas, it would seem as though Glen Elarbee is already on the recruiting trail for Tennessee, likely as the offensive line coach.
— Austin Uke | #EndSARS (@austin_uke) January 29, 2021
Elarbee also has the credit for last-minute Tennessee commit Jeremiah Crawford on his 247Sports page.
Lastly, Alex Golesh and Joey Halzle, are the other two UCF names currently linked to Heupel’s Tennessee staff.
Golesh is expected to be named the offensive coordinator and tight ends coach and Halzle the quarterbacks coach.