So, what do you get for $3 million and change in today’s college football coaching market?
Tennessee got Jim Chaney, Derrick Ansley and Tee Martin. We can hope that makes a difference that is measurable in December.
Chaney thinks he knows what Jeremy Pruitt wants on offense: a stout running game, some run-pass options and a few shots down the field.
Chaney is flexible, adaptive and smart enough to try to match player talent and game plans. If there are any genuine playmakers available, he’ll find them. Think Ty Chandler and a couple of wide receivers and maybe a tight end.
Ansley was highly regarded as a new bright light in the NFL. He’ll be the official defensive coordinator when Pruitt is busy with other projects. Together, in theory, they’ll make the young secondary stronger.
Ex-Vol Martin, director of the national championship offense back in the good old days, is a famous name, a highly regarded recruiter and an established coach of receivers. He came at a discount. Southern Cal paid him to go away. Tennessee will pay more when that gift card expires.
The new coaching alignment and a few other changes should be worth a game or two in the win column. Roster improvement and better fundamentals might be enough to beat Vanderbilt. That could be enough to earn a little-middle bowl invitation. And that would be enough for fans to believe progress is underway.
Better recruiting would convince even me.
As it is, it will be hard to overtake Southeastern Conference leaders if Tennessee recruiting only maintains middle-of-the-league ranking, noticeably behind the big boys. Effort is relevant, but it really does take better players to defeat better opponents. Brilliant decisions, good health and luck are sometimes secondary elements of success.
A salute to athletics director Phillip Fulmer for allocating the cash to purchase the assistant coaches Pruitt believes are better than the ones he had. Fulmer also knows the value of national recruiting and has funded a fat enough football budget to go anywhere – several times.
This is what you get when you put a former coach who won a hundred more games than he lost in charge of the department. Fulmer has been there and done that. He understands.
Alas, that does not guarantee success.
I thought Pruitt made a correct move when he reassigned Chris Weinke to coach quarterbacks. If you have a former Heisman Trophy winner on your staff, it simply sounds better to have him instruct those at the position where he was once honored as best in America.
Owning a Heisman doesn’t mean Weinke can coach, but having him work with quarterbacks might enhance recruiting quarterbacks. Results would also help.
Having Chaney for oversight is very convenient. He has coached a few quarterbacks and made them rich.
Helping Jarrett Guarantano play better is critical. Forcing improvement upon the offensive line is the foundation for keeping Guarantano upright and relatively secure. Again in theory, experience among linemen is supposed to pay dividends. I’m not convinced experience at losing is what you need. I found the Orange and White game a wee bit disappointing.
Guarantano desperately wants to win. He has spent holidays and serious daddy money for additional tutoring from renowned experts George Whitfield and Tony Racioppi.
Whitfield conducts a quarterback academy in San Diego and has worked with Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Jameis Winston and many other pros.
Racioppi does private quarterback tutoring at TEST Academy in Martinsville, N.J. He is big on basics, footwork and mechanics and drops from under center.
Guarantano’s return to the Manning Passing Academy this summer will mean more how-to-do-it-better information.
Hours of bonus coaching do not conflict with what Guarantano did on Haslam Field in the spring. They do not give Weinke an inferiority complex. The extra hours are complementary, additional instruction and practice beyond NCAA limitations. It is the quarterback saying he wants to be the best he can possibly be. There are no rules against that.
It is possible that many Volunteers have chosen that goal of self-improvement. It is possible that the new culture will take the entire team in that general direction. OK, you haven’t seen it yet. Could be extra summer work will be identifiable this fall.
What a joy that would be.
Marvin West welcomes reader remarks or questions. His address is firstname.lastname@example.org.