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Tennessee Football Roundup: Defensive Staff Starts To Take Shape

The offensive side of the staff was never expected to be hard to fill.

So when head coach Josh Heupel and Tennessee officially announced their staff for that side of the ball last week, it didn’t come as a surprise that it had been filled so much faster than the defensive side had.

However, for the Vols, it really just took one big push to get the ball rolling.

Just last week, on the same day that Tennessee officially unveiled their offensive staff, the Vols announced that Tim Banks from Penn State would be joining the staff as the defensive coordinator. 

After the Banks hiring was finalized, athletic director Danny White and Heupel didn’t waste much time in assembling a staff of assistants to put around Banks at Tennessee.

Here is a collection of the latest reports surrounding the Tennessee football defensive coaching staff.

Tennessee Announces Three Hires

Tennessee has officially announced three hires to the defensive staff, according to two press releases on UTSports.com. These names include Banks, Rodney Garner, and Willie Martinez.

The Vols announced Banks as the defensive coordinator last week before any other hires were officially revealed.

According to the Tennessee Athletics press release, “Tim Banks, who helped guide top 25 units as the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Penn State the past five seasons, has been named Tennessee’s new defensive coordinator, head coach Josh Heupel announced on Monday evening.”

The statement also went on to say: “Banks owns 14 years of FBS defensive coordinator experience, including four seasons at Illinois (2012-15), two years at Cincinnati (2010-11) and three seasons at Central Michigan (2007-09). During his successful five-year run at Penn State, the Nittany Lions ranked in the top 25 nationally in fewest yards per play allowed all five years and ranked in the top 25 in scoring defense three times and tackles for loss per game three times. He also proved to be an outstanding recruiter during his time.”

Just four days after that statement was released on Feb. 19, Heupel would officially reveal two more familiar names to the defensive staff. 

According to this Tennessee Athletics press release, “Southeastern Conference veterans Rodney Garner and Willie Martinez, who own a combined 45 years of experience in the league and five SEC championships, have been named to Tennessee football’s defensive staff, head coach Josh Heupel announced on Friday.”

“Bringing Coach Garner and Coach Martinez back to Tennessee is an important step for our program,” Heupel said in the statement released by Tennessee. “They understand what it takes to build an elite defense in the SEC and have developed numerous NFL Draft picks through the years. They also coached and mentored many student-athletes on some of Tennessee’s most successful teams. We are thrilled to welcome them back to Knoxville, and we know they will make a significant impact on our program once again.”

Garner will be the Vols’ defensive line coach and Martinez will take over the secondary coaching duties.

Who We Expect Tennessee to Announce

New Tennessee football coach Josh Heupel speaks during a basketball game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Kansas Jayhawks at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee on Saturday, January 30, 2021.

According to a report from Austin Price of Volquest on Feb. 19, Tennessee is expected to finalize a deal with Brian Jean-Mary to be the Vols’ linebackers coach.

Jean-Mary has had an extensive coaching career spanning 22 years and multiple D1 FBS stops along the way. Most recently, Jean-Mary served as Michigan’s linebackers coach after being hired to the Wolverines staff in January 2020.

Prior to Michigan, Jean-Mary was the defensive coordinator for Charlie Strong’s South Florida Bulls from 2017-19. 

That isn’t Jean-Mary’s only connection to Strong though. In fact, Jean-Mary worked under Strong from 2010-19, having time spent at Louisville and Texas as the linebackers coach before USF.

According to the Michigan Athletics staff page, “as a recruiter, Jean-Mary helped produce a trio of top-15 signing classes at Texas, improving from 15th in 2014 to seventh in 2015 and eighth in 2016, and one at Georgia Tech (15th, 2007). He also had a top-30 class at Louisville in 2011 (27th).”

In addition, Michigan Athletics also adds that “at USF, Jean-Mary’s defensive units were consistently among the nation’s best in turnovers created, tackles for loss, and pass defense. In his first year, USF listed top-25 nationally in six categories, including sacks per game (3.0, 11th) and interceptions (20, second). The Bulls led The American Conference in total defense (359.8 yards per game) and scoring defense (21.5 points per game), improving from 120th in total defense and 92nd in scoring defense to 37th and 41st, respectively, after Jean-Mary’s arrival. Defensive tackle Deadrin Senat was one of five all-conference defenders before being drafted in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

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