Tennessee’s defensive staff will have a much different look in 2020.
Inside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer departed for the Giants, while tight ends coach Brian Niedermeyer shifted to the defensive side to fill his place. Outside linebackers coach Chris Rumph then left for the Texans, while defensive line coach Tracy Rocker saw his contract expire, eventually moving on to South Carolina.
Jeremy Pruitt filled those two openings with Jimmy Brumbaugh from Colorado and Shelton Felton from Akron. On Friday, Pruitt broke down both of his new additions.
“Jimmy has a proven track record of developing outstanding football players everywhere he has been,” Pruitt said. “He also has experience coaching in the SEC and is familiar with the demands that come with coaching in this conference. We are excited to have Jimmy here at Tennessee and expect him to be a great addition to our coaching staff.”
Brumbaugh was officially announced as the co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach, sharing some responsibility with Derrick Ansley.
Brumbaugh’s best work came at Kentucky, where he coached Za’Darius Smith and Bud Dupree, turning them into high draft picks. Brumbaugh also coached future first round pick Chandler Jones during his time at Syracuse.
He inherits a rebuilt defensive line at Tennessee, filled with big bodies like Emmit Gooden, Darel Middleton, Greg Emerson, Aubrey Solomon, Matthew Butler and John Mincey. He’ll also inherit four-star freshmen Dominic Bailey and Omari Thomas.
As for Felton, he spent just one year away from Tennessee before returning to an on-field role. He served as a quality control analyst in Jeremy Pruitt’s first season, even hitting the road as a recruiter before moving on to Akron. Just a year later, Felton is set to be a key member of the 2020 staff.
“Shelton is a guy who was with us in a quality control role during our first season and did a fantastic job,” Pruitt said. “I was impressed by his work ethic and knowledge of the game. He’s coached in college for several years, and he also was an outstanding high school coach in Georgia. His ability to connect with the players on and off the field will make him a valuable piece to our on-field coaching staff.”
Felton, like Pruitt, cut his teeth in the high school ranks. He was a head coach at Crisp County High School in Georgia before making the jump to the college ranks. There’s no doubt that those Georgia connections will be put to use by Pruitt on the recruiting trail right away.
On the field, Felton will coach the outside linebackers. He will be tasked with replacing Darrell Taylor, who has been Tennessee’s only consistent pass rushing option for the last two seasons. But help is on the way. Kivon Bennett, Deandre Johnson, Roman Harrison and Quavaris Crouch figure to be next in line, but Pruitt added several versatile pieces that could play right away. Morven Joseph, Tyler Baron, Len’Neth Whitehead, Bryson Eason and Martavius French all could help out either on the inside or outside.
Felton is walking into a position without proven talent, but he’s got plenty of prospects to develop over the next couple of seasons.
We’ll get our first look at Tennessee’s staff in action next month as spring practice opens.