Many people in college football circles expect the University of Tennessee to hire its new coach before the current week is up. Who that coach is going to be is still completely up in the air.
Whenever the next coach is hired, he's going to have some immediate decisions to make about the current staff members in Knoxville.
Jim Chaney (offensive coordinator), Jay Graham (running backs), Darin Hinshaw (wide receivers), Sam Pittman (offensive line), Sal Sunseri (defensive coordinator), John Palermo (defensive line), Derrick Ansley (cornerbacks), Josh Conklin (safeties) and Charlie Coiner (special teams) all still remain on staff despite Derek Dooley's dismissal two weeks ago.
No new coach comes in and keeps every member of the former staff. Coaches generally like to bring in their own guys to turn the program around. It's nothing against the current coaches, but rather a preference to hire coaches that fit their scheme and philosophy. Some choose to clean the slate completely and get rid of everyone from the former staff, others elect to keep one or more around.
So what should the new coach in Knoxville do with the current staff members?
Tennessee's current staff, while the record was terrible this season, had coaches that made an impact and deserve the right to at least be considered for the next staff.
Former Vol running back Jay Graham excited the Tennessee fanbase when he chose to return to Knoxville to join Dooley's staff before last season. His impact was immediately felt on the recruiting trail and on the field.
In 2011, the Vols rushed for 1,081 yards and 11 touchdowns, very modest numbers for a program that has had a storied history with running backs.
This season, Tennessee nearly doubled its rushing production with 1,924 yards and 18 touchdowns.
While a change in running backs coach is not the only reason for the increase in production, Graham definitely had an effect and should warrant a hard look by the new head coach.
Offensive line coach Sam Pittman is another coach who has spent just one year with the Vols, but whose position group made marked improvements from the previous year.
Anyone who watched Tennessee football over the last two years noticed the improved play of the offensive line from 2011 to 2012. Opponents sacked Tyler Bray just eight times this season, down from 18 in 2011. Also, the offensive line played a huge role in the improved rushing numbers.
Offensive lineman Ja'Wuan James, who has a decision to make about declaring for the NFL draft, has lobbied for his position coach to stick around. James is just one of several Volunteer offensive linemen who have shared their desires to keep Pittman around with athletic director Dave Hart.
Jim Chaney and Darin Hinshaw are the two longest tenured assistant coaches currently in Knoxville.
Volunteer fans seem to have mixed feelings about Chaney, but the results were there for the Tennessee offense this season, averaging over 36 points per game.
Hinshaw has done a nice job since joining the Vols and has been big in holding recruiting classes together each of the last two years.
On the defensive side of the ball, it's tough to imagine the new head coach keeping the assistants around. After such a tumultuous season defensively, the Tennessee program needs a clean start on that side.
The Vols do have a pair of rising stars in the coaching world in Derrick Ansley and Josh Conklin, but the sour taste of this year's defense may be too much for the new coach to keep those guys around.
Another coach that deserves mentioning is graduate assistant Brandon Staley. Staley was the defensive coordinator at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College prior to taking the position in Knoxville. His connections to Hutchinson have kept the Vols alive in the recruiting race for several prospects there and he has tirelessly been working to keep the Vols alive with other prospects during this time of transition.
If it were up to me, Graham and Pittman would both be a part of the next coaching staff in Knoxville without question. The impact the pair has made in just one season is substantial and Tennessee likely can't do better at either position.
Beyond those two, everyone else is expendable.
Which coaches do you want to see stick around? Leave your comments below.
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