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Reports: Tennessee hiring Penn State assistant Tim Banks as defensive coordinator

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NCAA Football: Penn State Blue-White Game Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee’s long, winding journey to find a defensive coordinator appears to be over. Per multiple reports now, Josh Heupel is closing the deal with Penn State assistant Tim Banks to become Tennessee’s next defensive coordinator.

Pete Thamel had the news first.

Banks had been serving as the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach for James Franklin at Penn State. He’s a Michigan native who has been in the college coaching ranks since 1996. The 49-year-old has multiple seasons worth of defensive coordinator experience, also including stops at Illinois, Central Michigan and Cincinnati. Banks has twice served as defensive coordinator under former Tennessee coach Butch Jones.

As a player, Banks was a two-time All-MAC selection as a cornerback, playing for Central Michigan from 1991-1994.

Banks will be tasked with replacing several key pieces on defense in Knoxville, including cornerback Bryce Thompson and pass rusher Deandre Johnson. Both starting middle linebackers, Henry To’o To’o and Quavaris Crouch, currently remain in the transfer portal. His first order of recruiting will likely be speaking to both of those key players.

His defense will have to mesh with Heupel’s lightning-fast offense, something that certainly strains a unit. Heupel noted he wanted an aggressive style defensively — one that can force turnovers. In 2019, Penn State led the nation with 22 forced fumbles, so that certainly fits the bill.

Banks will inherit defensive line coach Rodney Garner, who was hired late last week to coach the defensive line. Garner brings SEC recruiting experience to the table, something that Heupel and Banks may look for more of as they round out the rest of the defensive staff. Look for those developments in the coming days.