Former offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian's surprise move to the NFL to become the quarterbacks coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers left a void in the Tennessee coaching staff through national signing day, but it didn't take long for head coach Butch Jones to find his replacement.
Tennessee announced on Friday that Mike DeBord will join the Vols' staff and take over as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
DeBord discussed the move:
It is truly an honor and a privilege to be a part of the great tradition and culture of the University of Tennessee football program. I was very selective about the job opportunities presented, and I'm very excited to be a part of the building of something special here at Tennessee. The familiarity with the system, the staff, and Butch Jones will be a great asset as we build upon and enhance our offensive system at Tennessee.
DeBord most recently served in an administrative role for Michigan's Olympic sports teams and was its offensive coordinator on two separate occasions (2006-2007 and 1997-1999). His 1997 Wolverines won a share of the national title, and came within one game of playing for another in 2006.
His most recent on-field job was as the tight ends coach for the Chicago Bears from 2010-2012. He was Jones' boss when DeBord was Central Michigan's head coach from 2000-2003.
Impressed? A national title—even one from 17 years ago—is nice.
I'm not that impressed, though.
What does DeBord bring to the table that current wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni doesn't? What does he bring to the table that South Carolina wide receivers coach G.A. Mangus doesn't? What does he bring to the table that Alabama wide receivers coach Billy Napier, USC wide receivers coach Tee Martin and Arizona co-offensive coordinator Calvin Magee don't?
Familiarity with Jones?
That seems to be the most important factor. As an offensive coordinator in college, his experience doesn't exactly jump off the page.
According to Sports-Reference.com, his Michigan offense finished sixth in the Big Ten in total offense in 2006 (370.8 yards per game) and 10th in 2007 (385.1 yards per game). In his first stint at Michigan, his offense finished no higher than fifth in the conference in scoring offense.
This is a hire out of convenience rather than one for progress. His first order of business, as Bleacher Report's Brad Shepard notes, might be winning over the fans.
Azzanni would have been a much better choice, and received a promotion to passing game coordinator according to Wes Rucker of 247Sports.
He's an up-and-coming wide receivers coach who's more familiar with Jones' program, and Brian Manzullo of the Detroit Free Press floated his name as a contender for the Central Michigan job this offseason. However, he told WMNL (h/t Fansided's Zach Ragan) that he never spoke with CMU about the position.
As Shepard notes, Vol fans should be thankful for Azzanni while they have him:
Why not do everything possible to keep him longer?
He's an integral part of the recruiting efforts on Rocky Top, helping reel in stud wide receivers Marquez North, Josh Malone and Preston Williams during his time with the program, according to his 247Sports recruiter bio.
If the coaching carousel is indeed going to spin in favor of a promotion, he clearly has enough interest from other places to play the leverage game.
On top of that, he has much more familiarity with how Jones runs this particular Tennessee program.
Jones has his say with what goes on in the offense, so DeBord's presence certainly doesn't change much.
His hire does, however, seem like Jones is making the coaching hire equivalent of bringing in a pinch hitter for Barry Bonds during his prime.
If he hits a home run, that's great, but he's likelier to hit a ground-rule double instead.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.
Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.