Tennessee Football: Derek Dooley's 2012 Staff Could Be Almost Entirely New

Joel BarkerSenior Writer IJanuary 12, 2012

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 15:  Head coach Derek Dooley of the Tennessee Volunteers against the LSU Tigers at Neyland Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Turnover in most any profession is inevitable. In the world of coaching big time college football, there is no truer statement than the previous sentence. 

At the moment, the Tennessee football program is getting the kind of makeover that is usually reserved for total regime change. 

Since the season ended with the thud of losing to Kentucky for the first time since 1984, Dooley has lost over half of his nine position coaches. 

Beginning with the unexpected retirement of wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett, Dooley's assistants began dropping like flies mere days after the season ended. 

Special teams coordinator Eric Russell was the next to leave when his former employer at Texas Tech, Mike Leach, offered him a position on the new staff at Washington State.

After a few weeks of steady rumors surrounding defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, the bright, young defensive mind bolted for his home state of Washington to take the same job with Steve Sarkisian's staff. He took Tennessee's linebackers coach Peter Sirmon with him. 

Now, as Dooley is in the thick of finding Wilcox's replacement, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand has resigned his position at Tennessee to take the same job at Notre Dame. 

Among those left from Dooley's 2011 staff are quarterbacks coach Darrin Hinshaw, defensive backs coach Terry Joseph, defensive line coach Lance Thompson and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. 

Dooley has added former Tennessee great Jay Graham to coach running backs, a position previously filled by a graduate assistant, and Tennessee hired former North Carolina offensive line coach Sam Pittman to take over the Vols O-line less than 24 hours after Hiestand resigned the position. 

Dooley is expected to name a new defensive coordinator in the next few days, which could very well launch a whole new spate of resignations and hirings. 

It is only speculation at this point, but Thompson could very well exit stage right if he doesn't at least get an assistant defensive coordinator position out of this episode of musical coaches.

Thompson has more than paid his dues as a position coach and top recruiter in three separate SEC stops (LSU, Alabama, Tennessee), but there has been no indication that he's even been considered for the opening. 

As it stands now, there are three open positions on Dooley's staff heading into one of the biggest recruiting weekends of the year.

Whether those positions are filled sooner or later, Tennessee's coaching staff will have an almost entirely different look in 2012 than it did during the miserable 2011 season. 

As bad as things may currently seem with coaches leaving seemingly on a weekly basis, it's probably not such a bad thing that over half the staff that led the Vols to a 11-14 record over the past two years will be employed elsewhere in 2012.