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New name reportedly emerges in Tennessee’s defensive coordinator search

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NFL: New York Jets-OTA Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee’s search for a defensive coordinator has turned into a lengthy one. New head coach Josh Heupel has at least been turned down a couple of times now as he tries to complete his most important hire on staff.

Multiple reports suggested that Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington had turned into the primary target for Heupel, but as of right now, he’s trending towards staying in Columbus. John Brice at FootballScoop is reporting that Ohio State has recruited Washington hard to stay with the team, and he’s expected to do just that. Washington has not formally turned down Tennessee’s offer. Taking the job would be a clear-cut pay raise, but also may be a tough job to handle for a couple of seasons.

So now what? The name that is now being circulated is Kacy Rodgers, a former Tennessee standout. Rodgers played at Tennessee from 1988-1991, and briefly spent time in the NFL before entering the coaching ranks.

If Washington formally declines the Tennessee opportunity and cements his decision to stay in Columbus, Ohio, multiple sources told FootballScoop beginning Tuesday night that the Vols’ new regime had reached out to Kacy Rodgers. UT staffers held a Zoom session, in addition to phone calls, earlier this week with Rodgers, sources told FootballScoop. (FootballScoop)

Rodgers climbed the college ranks for a decade before moving to the NFL. He coached the defensive line in Dallas and Miami before becoming the defensive coordinator for the Jets in 2015. Following the exit of Todd Bowles in New York, Rodgers followed Bowles to Tampa Bay to once again coach the defensive line. Over the weekend, Bowles and Rodgers won a ring with the Buccaneers, shutting down Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.

Rodgers last held a college job in 2002 with Arkansas.

It would be a big challenge for Rodgers to come back to his alma mater — one that may not look as appealing when you consider his status within an organization that just won a title at the highest level. However, money talks, and Tennessee does have plenty of that to offer. Brice’s report reveals a salary figure of $4.5 million over three years.

Tennessee has yet to announce any official hires outside of Heupel to this point in hopes of making one big announcement once the staff is complete. Currently, we know Joey Halzle will coach the quarterbacks, Alex Golesh will coach the tight ends and likely be the co-offensive coordinator, Kodi Burns will coach receivers and Glen Elarbee will handle the offensive line.