Vols Fans Should Be Glad Butch Jones Is Hiring Coaches Familiar with His System

Richard Allen@@RacingWithRichAnalyst IDecember 17, 2012

Butch Jones has assembled a staff familiar with his philosophy.
Butch Jones has assembled a staff familiar with his philosophy.Tyler Barrick/Getty Images

On Sunday, it was announced that Zach Azzanni would be joining the Tennessee Volunteers football staff as the wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. This hiring serves to complete the assistant coaching roster for new head coach Butch Jones.

Azzanni previously served as Jones' receivers coach at Central Michigan University from 2007-2009. He was named wide receivers coach of the year by footballscoop.com in 2009. He had worked this past season as the wide receivers coach at the University of Wisconsin.

Seven of the 11 members of what will be the 2013 Volunteers coaching staff have previously worked with Jones at other locales. Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian, tight ends coach Mark Elder, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach John Jancek, offensive line coach Don Mahoney, defensive line coach Steve Stripling and strength coach Dave Lawson all came with Jones from the University of Cincinnati.

Former Tennessee running back Jay Graham was the only holdover from previous coach Derek Dooley's staff to join Jones. Cornerback coach Tommy Thigpen and safeties coach Willie Martinez came to Knoxville from Gene Chizik's staff at Auburn.

When Jones was first announced as Tennessee's coach, he declared that he would assemble the best coaching staff in the country. However, some fans on Rocky Top are not happy with the makeup of the staff. Some wanted more assistants with previous ties to the program while others hoped for more well known names to be added.

Shouldn't it be regarded as a good thing that Jones is surrounding himself with assistant coaches who know and understand his system?

Of the Vols previous three coaches, two of them were heavily criticized for bringing in assistants who did not fit into their system. In particular, Phillip Fulmer hired offensive coordinator Dave Clawson who made major philosophical changes to the way the Vols offense was run.

Ultimately, Fulmer was fired during a season in which his once potent offense sputtered after the Clawson hiring.

Lane Kiffin assembled what seemed to be an all-star staff but most of them bolted along with the head coach after only one season in Knoxville.

Perhaps the most criticized move made by Derek Dooley was the hiring of Sal Sunseri as defensive coordinator. When the former Nick Saban assistant at Alabama came to Rocky Top he brought a change in defensive philosophy with him. A defense that had previously employed a 4-3 base set switched to a 3-4.

The result of the defensive change proved disastrous, and Dooley was fired in the same season in which Sunseri had been hired.

When favorite son Tee Martin, quarterback of the Vols 1998 national championship team, declined an offer to join Jones' staff as wide receivers coach, many Vol fans ramped up their criticism of the current group of coaches.

But the history of this program provides two excellent examples of what happens when the head coach hires assistants who do not share his same philosophy. Continuity within the staff would seem more important than name identity or association with other prominent programs.

Fans surely must realize by now the importance of all coaches being on the same page.


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