Bits ‘n pieces: Tennessee adds staffers

Marvin Westwestwords

Johnny Cash, Hank Snow, Glen Campbell and I don’t know who else gave us lots of listens to “I’ve been everywhere.”

Coach Steve Ruzic at Minnesota

Contrary to rumor, the song was not inspired by Steve Ruzic, new name in the Tennessee recruiting force, coordinator of scouting and strategy (whatever that is).

Ruzic is only 31 but he’s already been a leader at Indiana, Auburn, North Carolina, Minnesota, Ole Miss, UT-Chattanooga and an assistant of some kind at Valdosta State.

At Indiana, he was an assistant athletics director for football recruiting in 2023. His title was “general manager.”

Steve is from Warner Robbins, Georgia. His dad had deeper roots. He was a high school coach there for 20 years.

Cayden Cochran at Southern Miss

Friends and relatives … Former Oklahoma wide receiver Cayden Cochran has joined Tennessee’s staff as an offensive analyst. When Josh Heupel was co-offensive coordinator for OU in 2011, Cochran was a Sooner. He transferred to Valdosta State, where he quarterbacked the team to the 2012 Division II national title.

Cochran spent the past three seasons as tight ends coach for Southern Miss.

Hot Tide … Just because Alabama basketball scored 109 against LSU doesn’t mean Tennessee will tonight at Food City Center. The Tide shot 56 percent, made 14 three-pointers and hit 25 of 28 free throws. The Tigers survived, recovered and bumped off Arkansas to end a three-game losing streak.

Big Mouth: Former Tennessee tackle Gerald Mincey, now stationed in Lexington, is sounding off.  He mentioned the next Kentucky-Tennessee football game, coming November 2 to an arena near you, and how “the Wildcats are going to bust the Volunteers in the mouth.”

One Vol fan said: “‘Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.”

He didn’t say that applied to Mincey but he hinted.

Big Z: After months of deliberation, the NCAA decided 7-2 Zvonimir Ivišić from Vodice, Croatia, is eligible to achieve stardom with Kentucky’s basketball Wildcats.

Zvonimir Ivišić

The national governing body avoided another lawsuit by conveniently overlooking or circumventing the fact that Ivisic previously played in Podgorica, Montenegro, for KK Studentski Centar. It has professional sponsorship.

Advocates of Zvonimir argued that how many ever Euros the tall guy received from whoever was paying were not really different from big NIL money flowing freely in college sports.

Certain UK fans may have helped activate the delayed decision. They purchased a billboard not far from the front door of NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis which said “Free Big Z” and proclaimed his innocence.

Z is a freshman. He scored 11 points in five minutes against Georgia but did not play in the UK loss to Tennessee at Rupp Arena. He was said to still be learning John Calipari’s system.


Heisman Confidential: Nico is fifth in the early betting line for the Heisman Trophy. Quarterbacks from the SEC are five-sixths of the projected leaders.

Qwinn Ewers of Texas and Carson Beck of Georgia are No. 1 and No. 1A. Jalen Milroe of Alabama is third. Dillon Gabriel of Oregon is fourth. Jackson Arnold of Oklahoma is sixth.

The national champion forecast reflects very little creativity – same old, same old, Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, etc. Tennessee is 17th.

Nico supposedly affected TV ratings during bowl season. Tennessee-Iowa attracted 6.8 million viewers. LSU and Wisconsin drew 4.6. North Carolina against West Virginia had an audience of 3.8 million. Kentucky and Clemson attracted only 3.4.

Big O: Remember Olivier Nkamhoua? The former basketball Vol says he is very happy at Michigan. The school says he is exhibit A in cultural diversity. His mother, Raisa Still, is Scottish-Finnish. His father, 6-6 Christian Nkamhoua, is from Cameroon.

Olivier is averaging a career-best 17.2 points per game. He is rebounding better than he did for the Volunteers. He is now closer to NBA possibilities.

Paid in full: Tennessee ties to Kevin Steele go back to 1978, when he was a Vol linebacker. As soon as his playing career ended, he joined coach John Majors’ staff as a student assistant coach.

Kevin Steele at Alabama

He coached for nearly 44 years, including three stints with Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa. Steele worked at Clemson and was defensive coordinator at LSU, Auburn and Miami.

He was asked back to Tennessee in early January 2021. Coach Steele reported for duty at 5 p.m. that Jan. 17 as a defensive assistant on Jeremy Pruitt’s staff.

“Everything was different the next morning,” said Steele.

At 8 o’clock, Pruitt was suddenly unemployed. Steele became interim head coach. He kept the lights on and tried to guide players through the shock – go to class, don’t embarrass the university, don’t even think about transferring until you meet the new coach.

Some listened. Some ran for the nearest exit.

Heupel did not retain Steele but Tennessee honored his two-year contract, $900,000 and change in monthly payments. Good job if you can get it.

Steele, 66, went back to Alabama. He officially bowed out when Saban retired.

Money in instead of out: Tennessee averaged 101,915 fans for seven home football game, fourth nationally, highest mark since 2007.

“The best is yet to come,” said Dr. Danny White – before the university went to war against the NCAA, before it lost the first round.

Stay tuned.

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is

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