The ongoing recruiting investigation has everything up in the air in Knoxville. Jeremy Pruitt’s future is unclear, which understandably has some members of his staff uneasy and looking around for backup plans. One name that has come up in a few places is defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley, who just finished his second season at Tennessee.
Bruce Feldman mentioned Ansley as a candidate at Oregon, who is looking for a new defensive coordinator.
#Oregon D-Coordinator search is heating up: #Seahawks asst HC Clint Hurtt; ex-Texas DC Chris Ash; #Vols DC Derrick Ansley; #Falcons run game coordinator Tosh Lupoi; #MissSt DC Zach Arnett; #UGA co-DC Glenn Schumann; #Army DC Nate Woody, are among those are in the mix, per source.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) January 15, 2021
The addition of Kevin Steele as a “defensive assistant” may have further complicated things for Ansley. Steele is reportedly coming on to be a position coach, we just don’t know where yet. Of course if Ansley left, Steele would likely slide into the defensive coordinator gig.
Receivers coach Tee Martin and inside linebackers coach Brian Niedermeyer are currently working on expiring contracts. Niedermeyer is a key piece of this internal investigation, so his future is murky at best with Tennessee. The Vols still have openings for coaches on the offensive and defensive lines.
Steele is a veteran defensive coordinator who put together some really good seasons at Auburn. The former Volunteer now returns home at the strangest of times. Depending on who you listen to, Jeremy Pruitt is either completely safe because of the Steele announcement or even more at risk of being fired because of the Steele announcement. Nobody seems to know for sure.
We’ve seen some strange things in our Tennessee fandom, but this is beginning to creep towards the top of the list. Everything remains in limbo, and Ansley’s name is now being floated in connection with other jobs. So there’s another wrinkle to keep in mind over the next few days.
For what it’s worth, Ansley and Pruitt reportedly flew to California in an attempt to reassure linebacker Henry To’o To’o on Friday. You’d think they wouldn’t let a coach fly across the country to talk to a player’s family if they were going to fire him in the coming days. But this is Tennessee, after all.