John Adams: Assistant coaches best judged on results, not resumes

John Adams

Serious SEC football fans aren't much different from hard-core music fans.

They don't just know the lead singer. They know the band members.

A casual SEC football fan doesn't see beyond the head coach. The extreme fans knows the coordinators almost as well and some of the position coaches, too.

That helps explain the buzz former UT athletic director Mike Hamilton created when he hired Lane Kiffin as UT's football coach after the 2008 season.

Many fans probably knew more about a couple of UT's new assistant coaches than they did Kiffin, whose head-coaching career was limited to 20 forgettable games with the Oakland Raiders. His father, Monte Kiffin, was much better known, having established himself as an NFL defensive guru before joining his son at Tennessee.

Ed Orgeron, whom Lane hired to coach his defensive line, had been a head coach at Ole Miss and was known nationwide for his recruiting exploits.

Coach Derek Dooley didn't have an assistant coach as high-profile as those two in his three seasons at UT. New coach Butch Jones' staff wouldn't score high on a name-recognition test, either.

If you asked a serious fan to evaluate Jones' staff, his synopsis might go something like this: "A bunch of guys who were with him at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, and some dude (Willie Martinez) who got fired as Georgia's defensive coordinator (in 2009)."

Critics of this staff also might notice that it has virtually no NFL experience. And much of its experience at BCS programs was attained with Jones in his three seasons at Cincinnati.

Name recognition is one way to judge assistant coaches. NFL experience is another. But neither way is all that reliable, particularly in regard to position coaches.

There are just so many variables, most notably personnel. You also don't know how limited an assistant's role is or how much control is exacted by the head coach. And just because someone hasn't plied his trade in the NFL or at the most prominent programs in college football, he still might be an exceptional coach.

Ole Miss comes to mind. When the Rebels hired Hugh Freeze as head coach last year, he was "Who Freeze" to many college football fans. His previous head-coaching stops were at Arkansas State and Lambuth College.

The majority of his staff has a similar background. Five assistants followed Freeze from Arkansas State to Ole Miss.

So that was anything but a big-name staff. But Ole Miss fans aren't complaining after the Rebels improved from 2-10 to 6-6. Recruiting has improved as well. Ole Miss' 2013 class currently ranks 21st nationally, according to ESPN.

You couldn't have projected such a profound turnaround from those coaching resumes. Nor can you predict UT's football future from its assistant coaches' past.

At least, there will be some continuity on the staff. Dooley didn't have that.

Five of Jones' assistants were on his staff at Cincinnati. Four were on his staff at Cincinnati and Central Michigan.

So most of the staff will know Jones' drill. Now, they just have to make the adjustment to SEC football and the intense recruiting that goes with it.

You can judge them, like the head coach, after next season.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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Comments » 25

Dalton writes:

So we have to wait?....C'MON MAN!!!...first?

easleychuck writes:

"You can judge them, like the head coach, after next season."

Per usual, Adams gets it wrong. 1 season will not be the measuring stick for Coach Jones or his assistants.

underthehill writes:

in response to easleychuck:

"You can judge them, like the head coach, after next season."

Per usual, Adams gets it wrong. 1 season will not be the measuring stick for Coach Jones or his assistants.

I took this to mean..not this coming year but next year will be the measuring stick for recruiting..this staff cannot be expected to have a strong recruiting year this year but should do better next year..I think Adams is right if this is what he is saying..this staff has it's work cut out to salvage a decent recruiting year this year and I think they now have 14 com. listed..

LovinMyVols writes:

John, are you positioning yourself to call for the coaches head after one season?

Maybe we could give him at least three like Dooley got?

Maybe more if we see progress?

Does it sell more papers to start the contoversy early?

Maybe you are setting things up to talk about their success if they can pull off a good year?

Journalism is really hard, isn't it?

Hmmmm.....

CoverOrange writes:

in response to easleychuck:

"You can judge them, like the head coach, after next season."

Per usual, Adams gets it wrong. 1 season will not be the measuring stick for Coach Jones or his assistants.

While true, there will be some posters to this board judging them after the O&W game, if not before.

VolsDeepInMempho writes:

The Ole Miss comparison says it all....very depressing.

I have a 10 yr old son who doesn't believe that we were once a great program. Then again, he's never seen the Vols win a bowl game.

Literally feel for the little man...

I'd like to wish Mike Hamilton a Merry Christmas though

budd#207344 writes:

My opinion on JA's article is that we will be able to tell if these coaches can coach after the team performance next year. We found out that Graham and Pittman could coach after one year. Does anybody want Sal to get another year at DC to make sure? Doesn't mean that they will win the East next year but should know if the guys can communicate the Xs & Os.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to budd#207344:

My opinion on JA's article is that we will be able to tell if these coaches can coach after the team performance next year. We found out that Graham and Pittman could coach after one year. Does anybody want Sal to get another year at DC to make sure? Doesn't mean that they will win the East next year but should know if the guys can communicate the Xs & Os.

I agree. Between the need for the players and coaches to learn how to work together, the possibility of changes in the offensive and defensive systems, the need to work new guys into new positions and responsibilities, and the brutal schedule, no one should necessarily expect a contending team. However, there could be considerable improvement in team discipline, effort, and sideline demeanor which may be noticeable right away. A couple of nice recruiting coups would also be a good sign.

OrangeBloodFlood writes:

in response to budd#207344:

My opinion on JA's article is that we will be able to tell if these coaches can coach after the team performance next year. We found out that Graham and Pittman could coach after one year. Does anybody want Sal to get another year at DC to make sure? Doesn't mean that they will win the East next year but should know if the guys can communicate the Xs & Os.

Agree totally!I just hope we can find some speed at db, maybe take the juco route.The kid Martinez brought looks good on video...good enough to warrant a look ar rec.listed as an ath.

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

Another BS article, blowing smoke.

I bet hardly anyone knew half of Muschamp staff, I bet some people dont even realize Charlie Wies quit last year, and they had a new offensive coordinator this year.

I bet some people don't even know Mike Bobo the offensive coordinator at Georgia once played QB for Georgia.

Half of Jones staff has coached in the SEC, WR coach at Florida, two of the defensive staff coached at Georgia and 1 coached at Auburn.

So John is doing nothing but stroking the ignorant and falsely laying a foundation of unknown.

underthehill writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I agree. Between the need for the players and coaches to learn how to work together, the possibility of changes in the offensive and defensive systems, the need to work new guys into new positions and responsibilities, and the brutal schedule, no one should necessarily expect a contending team. However, there could be considerable improvement in team discipline, effort, and sideline demeanor which may be noticeable right away. A couple of nice recruiting coups would also be a good sign.

Very reasonable expectations..

BruisedOrange writes:

(* Not to nit-pick Adam's premise, but listing results is actually a feature of resumes
...though possibly not for print journalists. Difficult to document that a column's popularity resulted in a 7% increase in advertising revenue.)

Commenter easleyChuck's point is more intriguing. What CAN be legitimately assessed (if not judged) after one season?

My vote is Offensive Line Run Blocking. I think the new staff can claim credit if there's improvement there because of so much continuity with last season. The same players return... it's a technique-sensitive position... so unless there's a drastic change in the offensive scheme, blocking on running plays should remain similar enough for comparison after one season. (How RBs do after running through the hole is Coach VFL Graham's department.)

And I still can't believe there's not some wunderkind, fast-twitch, thick-thighed running back phenom who wouldn't commit immediately for the chance to devour yardage behind this O-line against the SEC! THAT'S how a special freshman creates an instant NFL resume. (But hey--just go to Bama... patiently wait your turn while absorbing career-cumulative hits in practice with the scout team. Maybe for your junior year the red tide writers will tag you with a catchy nickname... something like "Mr.Nextguy.")

Passing game? That'd be tough to critique next year. New receivers, plus learning a new offense, will all hinder QB performance, regardless of whether Bray returns, Worley inherits, Peterman rises, Ferguson wows, or Jones pulls up to the weigh-in dock with "Johnny Football II" in his live well. But if we're throwing the ball in November as well as we did last season... give the new staff due credit.

How will Butch's Since-innati staff impact our defense? Returning to a 4-3 alignment will change everything, for better or for as bad as (worse is not possible). But it also gives another year's life to last year's question: was the current defensive roster recruited to play in last season's defense? Heck--our defensive roster could be totally changed just by the return of last season's injured.

Defensive secondary? Improved coverage technique, or just getting 'em lined up correctly and confident in their responsibilities would be dramatic. But again they will be learning a new defense--and there remains the issue of speed. It'll take several seasons to know what the new staff can do on D in the SEC.

I'm also not sure what we'll know about recruiting, as the next two years will be a mixed harvest of previously developed Cincinnati relationships and newly formed Knoxville-centric ones. Besides, recruiting always takes 2-4 years to evaluate.

So what areas do y'all think could be legitimately, intelligently assessed (if not judged) by next January?

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

While true, there will be some posters to this board judging them after the O&W game, if not before.

They won't wait until the O&W game, they are already judging them

underthehill writes:

in response to BruisedOrange:

(* Not to nit-pick Adam's premise, but listing results is actually a feature of resumes
...though possibly not for print journalists. Difficult to document that a column's popularity resulted in a 7% increase in advertising revenue.)

Commenter easleyChuck's point is more intriguing. What CAN be legitimately assessed (if not judged) after one season?

My vote is Offensive Line Run Blocking. I think the new staff can claim credit if there's improvement there because of so much continuity with last season. The same players return... it's a technique-sensitive position... so unless there's a drastic change in the offensive scheme, blocking on running plays should remain similar enough for comparison after one season. (How RBs do after running through the hole is Coach VFL Graham's department.)

And I still can't believe there's not some wunderkind, fast-twitch, thick-thighed running back phenom who wouldn't commit immediately for the chance to devour yardage behind this O-line against the SEC! THAT'S how a special freshman creates an instant NFL resume. (But hey--just go to Bama... patiently wait your turn while absorbing career-cumulative hits in practice with the scout team. Maybe for your junior year the red tide writers will tag you with a catchy nickname... something like "Mr.Nextguy.")

Passing game? That'd be tough to critique next year. New receivers, plus learning a new offense, will all hinder QB performance, regardless of whether Bray returns, Worley inherits, Peterman rises, Ferguson wows, or Jones pulls up to the weigh-in dock with "Johnny Football II" in his live well. But if we're throwing the ball in November as well as we did last season... give the new staff due credit.

How will Butch's Since-innati staff impact our defense? Returning to a 4-3 alignment will change everything, for better or for as bad as (worse is not possible). But it also gives another year's life to last year's question: was the current defensive roster recruited to play in last season's defense? Heck--our defensive roster could be totally changed just by the return of last season's injured.

Defensive secondary? Improved coverage technique, or just getting 'em lined up correctly and confident in their responsibilities would be dramatic. But again they will be learning a new defense--and there remains the issue of speed. It'll take several seasons to know what the new staff can do on D in the SEC.

I'm also not sure what we'll know about recruiting, as the next two years will be a mixed harvest of previously developed Cincinnati relationships and newly formed Knoxville-centric ones. Besides, recruiting always takes 2-4 years to evaluate.

So what areas do y'all think could be legitimately, intelligently assessed (if not judged) by next January?

Interesting well stated post.. as far as I'm concerned..just have to wait n see..

AllVol1 writes:

I think it is fair to make judgments based on performance next year, but not win-loss record. Next year's schedule, as most foresee, is simply brutal. I see 6-6 being attainable and probably the most anyone could hope for with a change of staff, big playmakers graduating and off to the league, and the performance this year.

However, this staff has the opportunity to do new things. Even with a 6-6 record, they could make great strides in showing that they know how to recruit, coach up, and game-coach better than the previous staff. Frankly, I think the new defensive staff has it easy next year. I cannot imagine an SEC defense being worse than UT's last year. Remember, it was record-breaking-ly horrible. The pressure will be on the offensive side of the ball. This is where the new staff could really distinguish itself.

Man, I am already excited to see it, if for no other reason than it's a new age in UT Football! Go Vols! And I sincerely support the new staff and wish them all the best.

6972 writes:

Rome wasn't built in a day. But as it was being built, you could see progress as time went by. I don't think we saw a lot of that over the last 3 years, some, but not a lot. IMO. Let hope over the next 3 years we see a lot of progress.

Lizardgrad89 writes:

in response to BruisedOrange:

(* Not to nit-pick Adam's premise, but listing results is actually a feature of resumes
...though possibly not for print journalists. Difficult to document that a column's popularity resulted in a 7% increase in advertising revenue.)

Commenter easleyChuck's point is more intriguing. What CAN be legitimately assessed (if not judged) after one season?

My vote is Offensive Line Run Blocking. I think the new staff can claim credit if there's improvement there because of so much continuity with last season. The same players return... it's a technique-sensitive position... so unless there's a drastic change in the offensive scheme, blocking on running plays should remain similar enough for comparison after one season. (How RBs do after running through the hole is Coach VFL Graham's department.)

And I still can't believe there's not some wunderkind, fast-twitch, thick-thighed running back phenom who wouldn't commit immediately for the chance to devour yardage behind this O-line against the SEC! THAT'S how a special freshman creates an instant NFL resume. (But hey--just go to Bama... patiently wait your turn while absorbing career-cumulative hits in practice with the scout team. Maybe for your junior year the red tide writers will tag you with a catchy nickname... something like "Mr.Nextguy.")

Passing game? That'd be tough to critique next year. New receivers, plus learning a new offense, will all hinder QB performance, regardless of whether Bray returns, Worley inherits, Peterman rises, Ferguson wows, or Jones pulls up to the weigh-in dock with "Johnny Football II" in his live well. But if we're throwing the ball in November as well as we did last season... give the new staff due credit.

How will Butch's Since-innati staff impact our defense? Returning to a 4-3 alignment will change everything, for better or for as bad as (worse is not possible). But it also gives another year's life to last year's question: was the current defensive roster recruited to play in last season's defense? Heck--our defensive roster could be totally changed just by the return of last season's injured.

Defensive secondary? Improved coverage technique, or just getting 'em lined up correctly and confident in their responsibilities would be dramatic. But again they will be learning a new defense--and there remains the issue of speed. It'll take several seasons to know what the new staff can do on D in the SEC.

I'm also not sure what we'll know about recruiting, as the next two years will be a mixed harvest of previously developed Cincinnati relationships and newly formed Knoxville-centric ones. Besides, recruiting always takes 2-4 years to evaluate.

So what areas do y'all think could be legitimately, intelligently assessed (if not judged) by next January?

No "thick thighed wunderkind" RB is going to sign with UT. All they saw was UT throwing the ball 50 times a game. That doesn't excite a RB. Yes, you and I know it's a new coach and scheme, but they have no evidence anything is going to change, and it's a much bigger decision for them.

Plus, your give your Oline way too much credit. Great pass blockers. Let me emphasize this. GREAT PASS BLOCKERS. But run blockers? Mediocre. Remember that your passing game spread the defense WAY out. Still had trouble running the ball. What happens when defenses are tight in the box because your QB and WR's are green as grass next year? Running game will simply not exist in 2013.

But the biggest problem is the number 4. As in how many games you will win (at best) next year. 5 star recruits don't go to teams that are going to be bad and stay home for bowl season.

It just isn't going to happen.

Lizardgrad89 writes:

in response to AllVol1:

I think it is fair to make judgments based on performance next year, but not win-loss record. Next year's schedule, as most foresee, is simply brutal. I see 6-6 being attainable and probably the most anyone could hope for with a change of staff, big playmakers graduating and off to the league, and the performance this year.

However, this staff has the opportunity to do new things. Even with a 6-6 record, they could make great strides in showing that they know how to recruit, coach up, and game-coach better than the previous staff. Frankly, I think the new defensive staff has it easy next year. I cannot imagine an SEC defense being worse than UT's last year. Remember, it was record-breaking-ly horrible. The pressure will be on the offensive side of the ball. This is where the new staff could really distinguish itself.

Man, I am already excited to see it, if for no other reason than it's a new age in UT Football! Go Vols! And I sincerely support the new staff and wish them all the best.

Well Austin Peay and South Alabama and Kentucky are wins, but Oregon, Florida, Georgia, Bama and South Carolina are losses. So that's 3-5 to start.

So can you go 3-1 against Auburn, Vandy, Missouri, Western Kentucky? Remember, Petrino is no at WKU, so they might be surprisingly good.

Personally, I see 1-3 against that crew, but you never know.

6972 writes:

in response to Lizardgrad89:

No "thick thighed wunderkind" RB is going to sign with UT. All they saw was UT throwing the ball 50 times a game. That doesn't excite a RB. Yes, you and I know it's a new coach and scheme, but they have no evidence anything is going to change, and it's a much bigger decision for them.

Plus, your give your Oline way too much credit. Great pass blockers. Let me emphasize this. GREAT PASS BLOCKERS. But run blockers? Mediocre. Remember that your passing game spread the defense WAY out. Still had trouble running the ball. What happens when defenses are tight in the box because your QB and WR's are green as grass next year? Running game will simply not exist in 2013.

But the biggest problem is the number 4. As in how many games you will win (at best) next year. 5 star recruits don't go to teams that are going to be bad and stay home for bowl season.

It just isn't going to happen.

Doesn't the lizards have their own site to write on?

123forVOLS writes:

Thanks John for once again reminding us of UT's woes in hires at head coach. You just know how to make us feel the humbug of your approach to the football program on Rocky Top.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Lizardgrad89:

No "thick thighed wunderkind" RB is going to sign with UT. All they saw was UT throwing the ball 50 times a game. That doesn't excite a RB. Yes, you and I know it's a new coach and scheme, but they have no evidence anything is going to change, and it's a much bigger decision for them.

Plus, your give your Oline way too much credit. Great pass blockers. Let me emphasize this. GREAT PASS BLOCKERS. But run blockers? Mediocre. Remember that your passing game spread the defense WAY out. Still had trouble running the ball. What happens when defenses are tight in the box because your QB and WR's are green as grass next year? Running game will simply not exist in 2013.

But the biggest problem is the number 4. As in how many games you will win (at best) next year. 5 star recruits don't go to teams that are going to be bad and stay home for bowl season.

It just isn't going to happen.

I guess you didn't notice that UT almost exactly doubled its rushing production over last year. True, they were starting from an extremely low base, but still, doubling production was not negligible. They gained respectable rushing yardage against most opponents. That they didn't gain more was in part due to the fact that Chaney and/or Dooley basically stopped running the ball in the second half in most games, and neither of them are here now. And while it is true that our returning QBs and receivers are young and haven't played a lot, all that really means is that you don't KNOW what to expect from them. I think the Vols will be better in almost every way than they have been, but it may not show up in the record. We know it is a process and we have a long way to go, but the Vols likely won't be quite as helpless as you seem to want to believe.

tovolny writes:

It is about time KNS limited the number of words for a post. Some of the posters today wrote journals. One poster's comments were longer than the article. I occasionally post some long stuff, but when I see more than a whole page on my computer, I'm skipping it.

BruisedOrange writes:

in response to tovolny:

It is about time KNS limited the number of words for a post. Some of the posters today wrote journals. One poster's comments were longer than the article. I occasionally post some long stuff, but when I see more than a whole page on my computer, I'm skipping it.

Say, anybody know a publisher...?

You're right tovolny, and I'm the worst offender. I apologize.

My only excuse is that I had no work today, it was raining, cold and windy outside, and it was either GoVolsXtra or go start cleaning the house before the wife gets home.

At least I consider you guys to be better company than "Mr. Hoover" over there in the (still dusty) corner.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to BruisedOrange:

Say, anybody know a publisher...?

You're right tovolny, and I'm the worst offender. I apologize.

My only excuse is that I had no work today, it was raining, cold and windy outside, and it was either GoVolsXtra or go start cleaning the house before the wife gets home.

At least I consider you guys to be better company than "Mr. Hoover" over there in the (still dusty) corner.

I too am a frequent violator of the idea of limiting posts to bite-sized chunks. My only excuses are that I am retired, which gives me perhaps too much time to post on here and that I have no one else to communicate to who could have any possible reason for caring about these subjects and my thoughts thereon. I'll try to do better.

TKO writes:

If Butch Jones puts men of life support in the secondary , the defense should show improvement . Looks like saban to the Browns.

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