Alex Golesh was the only staff member Tennessee Football lost this past year, but the move forced Josh Heupel to make two staff changes: Offensive coordinator and tight ends coach. He promoted from within for both. With that done, here is a ranking of all 10 Vols staff members by importance.
10. Willie Martinez – DBs
Issues in the Vols’ secondary would naturally keep Willie Martinez low on this list, but it doesn’t help that a lot of the coaching here can be done by defensive coordinator Tim Banks, who specializes in defensive backs. Also, cornerbacks don’t need much coaching.
9. Alec Abeln – TEs
Tight ends do need to be coached blocking schemes, and Alec Abeln was hired to replace Golesh on that front, but it is still a small position group that he has to coach. As a result, he’s not that important of a staff member.
8. Jerry Mack – RBs
Similar to Alec Abeln, Jerry Mack is coaching a small position group in running backs. However, his experience with the staff and his proven value on the recruiting trail to this point make him a more important position coach than Abeln.
7. Kelsey Pope – WRs
Even before he was an on-field staff member, Kelsey Pope worked with Cedric Tillman and turned him into a 1,000-yard receiver. Then he turned Jalin Hyatt into a Biletnikoff Award winner. His youth makes him a crucial recruiter, and he can clearly develop talent at this position.
6. Brian Jean-Mary – LBs
Stunts and blitzes by the linebackers are crucial to allowing Tennessee Football to be effective on defense. Brian Jean-Mary, also an elite recruiter, has to coach that. With Jeremy Banks gone, he’s got to work with Keenen Pili and Arion Carter on that front this year to catch them up to Aaron Beasley.
5. Joey Halzle – OC/QBs
Coaching quarterbacks is the most important part of Joey Halzle’s role, but let’s be honest, both of the positions he holds can be run by Josh Heupel. In fact, Heupel is probably the main guy coaching the quarterbacks and running the offense anyway, so despite the important titles, Halzle is No. 5.
4. Rodney Gardner – DL
Defensive line is a crucial position for Tennessee Football on defense, as pressure and stopping the run are the only ways they’ll improve in the secondary. Rodney Garner can coach that, and he’s also probably the most important recruiter on the team.
3. Mike Ekeler – OLB/ST
Edge rushers are part of the linebackers and defensive line, so Mike Ekeler is dealing with both. That’s where the pressure comes from. Add in the fact that he runs special teams, where UT got quite a few breaks last year, and his recruiting prowess, and he belongs this high.
2. Glen Elarbee – OL
Offensive line is an underrated part of Josh Heupel’s system. Glen Elarbee developed the interior linemen last year and is the guy who switched Darnell Wright from left tackle to right tackle. He’s doing the same with Gerald Mincey this year. The Vols’ offense depends on how ready Elarbee has their O-Line.
1. Tim Banks – DC
He has his hands all over the secondary, and with an undermanned team, he is tasked with figuring out how to keep Tennessee Football competitive. Last year, as defensive coordinator, Tim Banks decided to make teams work the field. However, how he structures his defense will define this season for the Vols, so he’s the most important staff member.