Elder tabbed as the next head coach of EKU
Knoxville has been a bastion of coaching stability for the last three seasons, but it looks like the Vols will lose a good one today. Special teams/tight ends coach Mark Elder reportedly has been hired as the new head coach at Eastern Kentucky University. Lexington's ABC-36 WTVQ is the sole source announcing the hire-- which has not been confirmed by the Eastern Kentucky Athletics Department-- but Wes Rucker of GoVols247 and Chris Vannini of Coaching Search have both reported the hire as a done deal.
Impact on Tennessee
If true, Tennessee is losing one of the best special teams coaches in the country-- the Vols ranked second in Football Outsiders' FEI Special Teams Rankings this year. While the Vols struggled early to convert long field goals, both coverage units were solid and Tennessee excelled at Kickoff and Punt Return Efficiency, finishing first in KRE and fifth in PRE. Sophomore athlete Evan Berry and
senior junior cornerback Cam Sutton had great seasons as the primary returners and Butch Jones' recruiting chops were on full display as Tennessee's young backups shined on special teams.
Coach Elder is also an important and underrated recruiter responsible for eastern North Carolina and specialist players (kickers, punters, and snappers). Last year, Elder was the primary area recruiter for four-star defensive tackle Shy Tuttle (Lexington, NC) and three-star safety Stephen Griffin (Charlotte, NC)-- and a secondary recruiter for four-star offensive tackle Drew Richmond (Memphis, TN). This year, Elder is the primary recruiter for four-star cornerback commitment Marquill Osborne (Cornelius, NC) and the secondary recruiter for four-star offensive line target Landon Dickerson (Hudson, NC) and four-star wide receiver target Diondre Overton (Greensboro, NC) among others.
While it's disappointing to lose a solid coach like Elder, this would be his first chance to land a head coaching position and climb the coaching ladder. It's also a good sign of the overall health of Tennessee's football program that some of the Vols' coaches are in demand. With rumors that wide receiver coach Zach Azzani (Maryland) and secondary coach Willie Martinez (Miami, FL) also have offers on the table, Butch Jones will have the opportunity and challenge to strengthen his staff with new coaching hires.