Big news this morning from Chris Low — Tennessee is set to add Kevin Steele to the football staff. The addition of Steele would seemingly suggest that Jeremy Pruitt is safe for the 2021 football season, but we still don’t have confirmation on that at this point.
Big #Vols news from @ClowESPN: Tennessee is hiring Kevin Steele to the coaching staff. Steele spent the five seasons as #Auburn's defensive coordinator. Former Tennessee player and assistant returning to Rocky Top.https://t.co/0HajqKN0Fk— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) January 12, 2021
Tennessee is in the midst of an internal investigation of its own recruiting. They’ve hired attorneys from the outside to handle the investigation — something that has kept Pruitt’s job status in limbo for the past several weeks.
Tennessee announced a hiring freeze on filling a couple of vacancies on staff until the investigation concludes, so the potential announcement of Steele is a big deal. Remember, at this point this is just a report from Low, and nothing has been announced by the university.
Steele is a former Tennessee linebacker, playing in Knoxville in the late 70s. He was then a graduate-assistant for the Vols, kickstarting a long coaching career. Steele returned to Knoxville as the defensive backs coach in 1987 before leaving for Nebraska in 1989. Now over 30 years later, he’s back. In what capacity? That remains to be seen.
If you’ll think back to 2017, Steele was a finalist for the head coaching job that Jeremy Pruitt landed. Phillip Fulmer took over the search and narrowed things down to Pruitt, Steele and Mel Tucker. Now heading into 2020, Steele joins Pruitt’s staff.
Tennessee has an opening at defensive line coach, but that’s not something Steele has coached before. Brian Niedermeyer remains as the inside linebackers coach, but his contract is set to expire and he’s reportedly at the center of this internal investigation. Derrick Ansley is still the defensive coordinator.
The official announcement from the school will be very interesting, to say the least.
Update: Tennessee has officially announced the move.
Jeremy Pruitt’s statement:
“Kevin is someone I have respected and admired for a long time on and off the field,” Pruitt said, “I had the opportunity to learn and work with him during our time at Alabama and our friendship grew from there. He has outstanding knowledge of the game and understands what it takes to be successful in this conference. Having coached under the great Johnny Majors, he has a sincere appreciation for what it means to be a Tennessee Volunteer. We are thrilled to welcome Kevin and Linda back to Rocky Top.”
Jeremy Pruitt made this hire and Steele plans on being a defensive position coach.— David Ubben (@davidubben) January 12, 2021