POSITIONS OF STRENGTH?
Tennessee has seen more than its share of changes on the football coaching staff over the last three seasons, but perhaps no position has been hit harder than the one leading strength and conditioning for the Vols.
Nov. 2008: Johnny Long leaves the program along with the rest of Phillip Fulmer’s staff at the end of the regular season.
Dec. 2008: New UT coach Lane Kiffin hires Mark Smith away from South Carolina.
May 2009: Smith and the Vols part ways after just five months, and Kiffin quickly hires UT alum Aaron Ausmus to lead workouts.
Feb. 2010: After Kiffin’s stunning departure for Southern California, Ausmus soon follows suit after it becomes clear he won’t be working with the football team under Derek Dooley. The Vols hire Wylie away from Texas Tech.
Thursday: Wylie is formally introduced for the same position with Texas.
Texas came calling again.
This time around the Longhorns were able to pry somebody away from the Tennessee coaching staff.
Highly regarded and now former Vols strength coach Bennie Wylie will fill the same position with the Longhorns, making his move back home to Texas official with an afternoon news conference on Thursday that leaves a vacant office in the weight room yet again for UT. Dating back to the end of the 2008 season, the next hire will be the fifth to hold a position of great importance to the program given its role in shaping the team physically when the rest of the football coaching staff can’t be around in the offseason.
Vols coach Derek Dooley didn’t comment publicly on the issue Thursday, and he’s been vocal that losing assistant coaches or staff members is a sign the team is doing things the right way — a point hammered home when the Longhorns made overtures for defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. But Dooley seemed to develop a strong bond with Wylie, who was widely praised for his work with the Vols in the offseason, and a group of players that has already worked with so many strength coaches is unlikely to be happy about losing another one.
“Bennie has been phenomenal,” Dooley said after Wylie’s first and only summer with UT. “He’s also a phenomenal extension of me and what our organizational values are. He’s not doing it for Bennie Wylie, he’s doing it for the organization, and I think that’s what makes him special. Bennie is really something special.
“It’s critical, because I can’t be out there. Our coaches can’t be out there — so if the strength coach is not an extension of the staff, then you’re just working out. You’re not developing and growing as a team.”
By all accounts the Vols did flourish under the intense regime of Wylie, who was hired from Texas Tech with a two-year deal worth $225,000.
The former Sam Houston State running back and native of Mexia, Texas, won over the Vols by not only leading the workouts, but participating in them as well to get a better feel and understanding for the physical toll the sessions were having on the players.
UT certainly planned on Wylie sticking around to continue those grueling workouts given his prominent role in a video for the new Football Training Center, but after heading back home to join the Longhorns, he’s now the last name in a list that includes Aaron Ausmus, Mark Smith and Johnny Long before him as strength coaches no longer with the program since November 2008.
“We searched the nation for the guy who had the most energy, the guy who worked the hardest,” former Texas strength coach for football Jeff Madden said according to the Austin American-Statesman.
The Vols used to have that guy. Now they’re the ones searching yet again.