The search for a defensive coordinator continues.
But Tennessee might be close to filling a different vacancy on its football coaching staff.
According to a source within the program not willing to speak publicly until details were finalized, the Vols again have targeted veteran NFL assistant Rich Bisaccia to take over as their special teams coordinator. And after flirting with him for the same position after the 2009 season, UT and the current San Diego Chargers staffer appear to be close to making a relationship official.
The source indicated no timeline for announcing a hire to lead the special teams and tight ends, a gig Eric Russell left last month to take a similar post at Washington State after two years at UT. Bisaccia also was considered the top candidate the last time the job was open, with ESPN.com even reporting in 2009 that he had agreed to a deal with then-coach Lane Kiffin before Kiffin left to take a job at Southern California and Derek Dooley ultimately hired Russell.
The program also doesn't have a definitive deadline set to fill the other empty slots on the staff after the departures of defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon last week.
Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, former Miami coach Randy Shannon, Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett and former Illinois coach Ron Zook all have been mentioned as possible targets to replace Wilcox since Wilcox left with Sirmon for Washington, but the process at UT is considered ongoing and certainly not limited to those options.
"I wish that I could put a timeframe on it," Dooley said last week. "It's really complex, given that you have to invest time in recruiting and some teams are still playing in the NFL. It's really hard to say.
"Certainly the quicker, the better. What we're not going to do is try and compromise who we get to try and hurry it up."
The same patient approach has been applied to special teams, though that effort might soon produce an agreement with Bisaccia, who helped Tampa Bay win a Super Bowl after being hired by the organization in 2002. After collegiate stints at Wayne State College, South Carolina, Clemson and Ole Miss, Bisaccia spent his entire professional career with the Buccaneers before taking his team-first approach to special teams to San Diego last season.
"We've got a linebacker next to a tight end, next to a safety, next to a running back," Bisaccia told the San Diego Union-Tribune in August. "We're all connected by a rope and accountable to each other.
"We've combined offense and defense into 'we-fense,' and we'll see where it takes us."