The 2019-2020 coaching carousel has seen storied programs like Florida State, Ole Miss, Missouri, and Arkansas forced into the fray, hoping to land their top options to lead their programs. Thankfully Tennessee is not among those scouring the ranks for another head coach.
However, the past two days have been full of stunning coaching moves and potentially wave-making hires. Almost all are in the southeast, and at least one (Ole Miss) has already helped Tennessee with its recruiting efforts.
But the carousel cuts both ways. Jeremy Pruitt’s staff is decently regarded by other teams, and that means those new head coaches will be looking over the list to figure out their chances with some of his staff.
Are these the only coaches who could get poached? No. The beauty of the carousel is that certain hirings come out of nowhere and cause a lot of scrambling in the days leading to Early Signing Day. These are simply the coaches that, if you look at the current movement over the past couple days, would receive the first phone calls made by new coaches.
David Johnson - Running Backs
The news of Mike Norvell getting hired at Florida State means the dominoes could fall across the entire SEC. One of Norvell’s strengths as a coach is his eye for coaching talent—Texas A&M, Georgia, Auburn, Notre Dame, and Tennessee all hired assistants from Norvell’s Memphis teams.
For Tennessee, that was current running backs coach David Johnson, who teamed up with Norvell from 2016 to 2017 as the wide receivers coach/passing game coordinator. They produced great results together, and Johnson would be a prime choice for the running back coach position. His connections to Mississippi and Louisiana would help recruiting too.
Kevin Sherrer - Special Teams/Inside Linebacker
Along those same lines, Kevin Sherrer could return to Georgia if Norvell insists on assembling a strong SEC staff. Another former Memphis coach is current Georgia defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach Dan Lanning. Him and Norvell were together at Pittsburgh and Arizona State while working under Todd Graham, and Norvell eventually hired Lanning at Memphis. Lanning did well enough that Georgia poached him for an upgrade in title.
If Lanning gets chosen for defensive coordinator at Florida State, Sherrer could be one of the top choices to replace him as linebackers coach. Sherrer worked under Smart and helped lead Georgia to the national championship game in 2017. He was originally the outside linebackers coach in Athens as well. Again, it would probably require a bit more money than he might be worth...but Georgia has shown they have all the money in the world.
Jim Chaney - Offensive Coordinator
The rapid development that Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman was heading to Arkansas has thrown a huge wrench in the coaching carousel. Beyond the bizarre choice to hire a first-time head coach who has never called plays before, Arkansas might be willing to have Pittman assemble a strong staff to help the transition. Among those listed as a candidate is Jim Chaney, who worked with Pittman to assemble one of the most impressive running attacks in the nation. Assuming Pittman wants to maintain the same identity that the Bulldogs had, there’s no better coach to do it than Chaney.
This would require a lot of money and a lot of convincing. Chaney’s willingness to leave Georgia and come back to Knoxville speaks volumes about what he thinks of Jeremy Pruitt and Tennessee as a whole. I think he genuinely wants to retire at Tennessee. Then again, stranger things have happened, and if he gets a huge number on a contract proposal, it might be enough for him to link back up with Pittman.
Chris Weinke - Quarterbacks
Frankly I’m not sure where exactly Weinke would go. But the career trajectory of someone like Weinke leads me to believe that he will be looking for an upgrade in some capacity.
His path to being quarterbacks coach for Tennessee is a bit odd, considering that he was with the Los Angeles Rams from 2015 to 2016 as a quarterbacks coach. Usually you don’t move down the coaching chain when you’ve coached in the NFL. Nevertheless, Weinke’s move from running backs coach to quarterbacks coach in 2019 signaled an upgrade. Running backs coaches are usually just recruiters. Quarterbacks coaches are actually relied upon to coach up their guys.
We know Weinke has called plays before—albeit on the high school level at IMG. Still, I’d wager he wants to go further in his career, and he’ll be listening to any school which would promise that.