Jeremy Pruitt promotes the marquee value of his assistants with the zeal of an accountant along with being Tennessee’s football coach.
He recounted their success by association during a press conference last week. As a group, they’ve been associated with 16 national championships and 29 conference championships. They have coached more than 190 drafts pick, including 30 first-round selections, and 66 All-Americans.
“I think that speaks highly to the player development that our staff has been associated with and the programs they’ve been around,” he said.
The staff’s three new faces – Jim Chaney and Tee Martin on offense and Derrick Ansley on defense – have added to the group’s collective credentials. Plus, Pruitt said that Ansley can finish any sentence that Pruitt starts. That counts for something, too.
Chaney was the biggest new hire. He has 34 years of coaching experience, including three previous seasons at Tennessee (2009-12). As offensive coordinator, he will command the offense much like Pruitt does the defense.
Chaney might not be able to finish Pruitt’s sentences, but he is fluent in the run-oriented, play-action pass offense that Pruitt favors. His past three seasons at Georgia offer ample proof.
“I think he is a great evaluator,” Pruitt said. “He has command in a room and he sees the big picture. I am excited to see what we do this summer as we move into the spring and then fall.”
Ansley clearly was a coveted hire. News of his addition followed closely reports that former assistant Terry Fair no longer was a part of the staff. Ansley coached defensive backs at Alabama in 2016-17 when Pruitt was the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator. Pruitt and Ansley also were together at Alabama in 2010-11 when Ansley was a graduate assistant.
To lure Ansley from the staff of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, he was given defensive coordinator responsibilities along with coaching defensive backs. Former coordinator Kevin Sherrer was reassigned to special teams coordinator, along with coaching linebackers. Outside linebackers coach Chris Rumph remained as co-defensive coordinator.
“The opportunity to be defensive coordinator here and to work with the men on our staff is something he could not turn down,” Pruitt said.
Ansley will call plays for the defense. Pruitt again believes that they are like-minded enough for it to work.
“He is ready,” Pruitt said. “He is somebody that has been in the back end with me, not last year but the two previous years. He has a pretty good idea of when we want to call something.”
Since he was the quarterback for Tennessee’s 1998 national championship team, Martin was a popular hire. His coaching value, though, is based on something more relevant. The website 247Sports named Martin its national recruiter of the year in 2016. He consistently has ranked among the top 20 recruiters in a 10-year collegiate career that has included stops at New Mexico, Kentucky and Southern California.
Pruitt said the primary attributes of Martin and the other new assistants begin with player development.
“You have to be good teachers,” Pruitt said, “and our guys are really good teachers.”
Helps to have good players to begin with too.
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Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri who covered University of Tennessee athletics for the Knoxville News Sentinel from 1988-2019. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org