Nashville, Tenn. (WKRN)- There is no arguing, the Southeastern Conference is currently the best in the country. Nick Saban and Alabama have been the king down South for over a decade now and while there have been other teams that have found success, no one has done it better than the mighty Crimson Tide.
One team that hasn’t seen its glory days in quite some time and would love to be back in the conversation, is Tennessee. The big orange have been a big disappointment over the last several years. The Volunteers have suffered through two straight losing seasons, they haven’t won the division since 2007, and the last time the Vols hoisted the National Championship trophy was in 1998.
But maybe this is the season that Tennessee starts to turn things around with Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt entering his second year on Rocky Top. One thing that is apparent, Pruitt has been taking notes from his former boss Nick Saban, upgrading his staff in 2019.
The new faces in Knoxville include; Jim Chaney (offensive coordinator), Tee Martin (assistant head coach/wide receivers and passing game coordinator) and Derrick Ansley (defensive coordinator/defensive backs).
Jim Chaney returns for a second stint in Knoxville as Tennessee’s play-caller, signing three-year deal worth $4.8 million. Chaney was Tennessee’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2009-12, working under Lane Kiffin and then Derek Dooley, before moving on after Dooley was fired. He has also made stops in Arkansas, Pittsburgh and Georgia, before making the return trip to join the Vols.
“Jim’s a guy that, you know, he’s a very good communicator. He’s a great teacher. He’s a good evaluator. He works well with people. Having a chance just to listen to him talk to our coaches and our players, he’s very personable, really good teacher,” said Pruitt.
Probably the biggest hire for Pruitt, is Defensive Coordinator Derrick Ansley. He comes over from the Oakland Raiders, where he spent one season coaching the team’s defensive backs. Ansley is no stranger to the SEC, making stops at Kentucky and Alabama. He also coached the defensive backs at Tennessee in 2012.
Pruitt said, “Derrick is a guy that I worked with for several years at Alabama. He was my graduate assistant, defensive back coach. He’s a guy that if I start a sentence, he can finish it. Is one of the very bright minds in all of college football.”
And one guy who knows a lot about that 1998 BCS National Title, is Tee Martin. He returns to Rocky Top for the first time in 20 years and will serve as the Vol’s assistant head coach, passing-game coordinator and wide receivers coach. Martin coached at Southern California for six seasons and before that spent time at Kentucky and New Mexico.
Pruitt added, “Here’s a guy that was the offensive coordinator at USC. You can look at his track record as a wide receiver coach, had tremendous offenses at USC. He’s lived it. He’s seen it. He dreamed it. He’s been there, he’s done it. So excited he’s there.”
These are just a few of the new additions, but Pruitt is also very a happy with the coaches he’s bringing back. Eight guys on his staff started at the high school level, and Pruitt said that is key when it comes to teaching progression.
“You know, I don’t know how many number of conference championships or draft picks that we’ve coached, but we’ve been a part of winning a championship. And that’s our plan, that’s our goal at the University of Tennessee,” said Pruitt.
The Volunteers open up the season at home against Georgia State on August 31st. Their first SEC matchup will be at Florida on September 21st.