Roughly a month after winning the Gator Bowl and officially starting the offseason, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt has seen numerous departures and additions to his coaching staff. However, it looks like Pruitt’s on-field staff has been officially filled after a busy few weeks in January and February and is now looking to bolster his off-field analyst team.
With two departures, two additions, and two in-house coaching moves, here is a recap of the offseason coaching staff changes made by the Volunteers so far.
Just a day after coaching the Vols in a 23-22 Gator Bowl victory, running backs coach David Johnson left Tennessee to re-join Mike Norvell’s staff in what will be their first campaign at Florida State.
Meanwhile, with just about a week left of January, Tennessee’s coaching staff had its second official departure. On Jan. 25, reports were announced that Tennessee inside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Kevin Sherrer was expected to leave to fill his same defensive coaching position with the New York Giants.
Johnson joined Pruitt’s staff in 2018 where he would serve as the wide receivers coach during his first season, and then moved to running backs coach for the 2019 season. Pruitt hired Sherrer in 2018 as well, but the two have had many stints coaching together. The duo has previously coached together at Georgia, Alabama, and Hoover High School.
In just about a month, Tennessee had two new positions to fill on the field and would need to figure out how to provide the impact in recruiting both Sherrer and Johnson had as well.
Jay Graham Returns to Tennessee
Just three days after losing Sherrer, Pruitt made a splash hire for one of his staff vacancies, but it wasn’t the most recent one. After seemingly a long struggle to convince him to leave Texas A&M, Tennessee just did that. Reports came out that the Volunteers had hired former Vol running back Jay Graham later to fill the running backs coach position.
Graham is a beloved former All-SEC player for Tennessee fans everywhere but has established himself as a top-tier coach in college football ever since. Graham coached running backs for Tennessee previously in 2012 but left for Florida State after just one year.
During his coaching career, Graham has coached numerous college players to super-stardom, and many have ended up in the NFL as well. Great running backs such as Dalvin Cook, Marcus Lattimore, Devonte Freeman, and Texas A&M’s all-time leading rusher Trayveon Williams have all been coached by Graham at some point in their college career.
In-House Changes Are Made
On New Year’s Eve 2019, reports came out that Tennessee was moving Director of Programming for Football Joe Osovet to an on-field position as the tight ends coach for the Vols. It was also expected that Osovet’s move would mean that former tight ends coach Brian Niedermeyer would be switching to a defensive coaching position.
On Feb. 5, Pruitt officially confirmed Osovet’s coaching position switch, and announced that Neidermeyer would be moving to inside linebackers coach.
This will be Osovet’s first on-field coaching role above the JUCO level, only serving as an off-field analyst for the Vols and a head coach for a JUCO program before joining the UT staff.
Both coaches have been highly thought of on Tennessee’s staff, with special attention to Niedermeyer. He has demonstrated strong and likable characteristics since his arrival on Rocky Top and has been one of the most important pieces in the Vols recruiting resurgence.
Chip Long Joins Staff in Analyst Role
After filling the on-field positions, Pruitt didn’t slow down in trying to find qualified people to bring on staff.
Just one day after the Vols officially announced the position changes for Osovet and Niedermeyer, reports broke that the Vols would now be hiring former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long to the staff in an analyst role.
Long was released from his position by Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly following the 2019 season, but not with his head hung low. In the 2019 season, the Notre Dame offense had its best offensive season under Long, ranking as the 13th highest scoring team after being just the 42nd ranked team in the category in 2018.
Long has been speculated to be living in Knoxville since his departure from Notre Dame in December, but whether that’s true or not, his impact will certainly be felt this upcoming fall.
Ultimately, Pruitt and company were faced with some tough decisions after having two position coaching spots open up quickly into the offseason. But the way Pruitt and athletic director Phillip Fulmer were able to rebound and improve the staff from last year is a tremendous sign for things to come.