Zach Azzanni starts at UT with nearly 'blank canvas'

Steve Stripling on coming to UT and hitting the recruiting trail

Steve  Stripling

Steve Stripling

Zach  Azzani

Zach Azzani

Coming to coach at the school once known as Wide Receiver U. clearly appealed to Zach Azzanni.

Tennessee's status at the moment is more like Wide Receiver Who?

"It's pretty depleted,'' Azzanni said Thursday.

"There's some young guys that are hungry. We don't have enough of 'em. That's why we're on the road right now grinding, recruiting.''

Azzanni is both receivers coach and recruiting coordinator on Butch Jones' new UT staff. He and defensive line coach Steve Stripling were late arrivals due to bowl commitments with their previous teams. Both met with the media Thursday.

Azzanni takes over a corps that lost juniors Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson to the NFL draft, plus senior Zach Rogers.

All told, players who accounted for 198 of the Vols' 285 receptions in 2012 are gone.

Pig Howard's 13 catches make him the most productive returning wideout.

"For me, it's good,'' Azzanni said. "I've got to have a silver lining, losing a bunch of first-rounders.

"There's no bad habits I've got to break. I get to come in with a blank canvas.''

Recruiting has to help fill in that canvas. Azzanni said UT could be more

picky about future classes but has a sense of urgency for the group that will sign next month.

"Right now, it's about who's interested,'' Azzanni said. "We've got to find guys that are interested that we can build a relationship fast and convince them this is the place for them.''

UT has a long track record of convincing blue-chip receivers Neyland Stadium was a good place to showcase their skills.

"Receivers should be knocking on our door, quite honestly,'' Azzanni said. "We need to get that back here.''

Stripling's defensive line canvas isn't as bare, although Darrington Sentimore's early exit to test the draft was a setback.

He looks forward to working with Dan McCullers, listed at 6-foot-8, 360 pounds, whom Stripling described as the biggest player he's ever coached.

As the defense moves back to a four-man front, Stripling anticipates McCullers will be just as comfortable as he was as the nose tackle in the three-man front.

"Big Dan has athletic ability,'' Stripling said. "I think he's going to be able to express that and we'll find the best place for him to be successful.''

This will be Stripling's first venture into the SEC after stints at three Big Ten schools and two in the Big East.

"I've got experience coaching in the big stadiums and coaching great players,'' he said. "I believe it prepared me for this.''

Terry Fair also talked about his appointment as defensive quality control assistant. The former Vol and NFL defensive back has spent the past couple of years in local media.

But coaching was always his plan.

"One of my reasons for coming back to get my degree was to further my coaching career,'' Fair said. "Here I am.''

Fair isn't allowed to participate in off-campus recruiting, but said he's closely observing the full-time assistants.

"I'm in there soaking in all I can,'' he said, "taking notes, and when I do get that opportunity, I'll be prepared.''

Follow Mike Strange at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange

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Comments » 26

wigmeister writes:

Hope he can turn what we have into quality and bring some more good receivers in. There are a lot of former Vols from the receivers(including the tight ends), that are huge stars now in the NFL. Hope he can build on the past.

Snapshot writes:

Nice article, Mike.

Hopefully they can get the North kid. He would certainly have a chance to play early and often.

tovolny writes:

Good article Mr. Strange. I like your style of relating information to the Vol Fans.

VFL_Troll_Patrol writes:

I love his attitude as well! Positive for the future! We need all we can get now that Hunter and CP are gone. GBO!

*Im always watching*

The Push Heard Around the World BCS
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VI_J7c...

wayne.kearney#1414428 writes:

Hope they LOVE a challenge. This staff has a bunch of work to do. GOOD LUCK

PHAT_VOL writes:

He has experience coaching in the big stadiums. O.K.
I hope he has more than that and can get it done.

GO VOLS!!!

jakethevolguy writes:

in response to Apex:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

lol Yes he does. I hope he can coach better that the previous defensive coordinator that looked like Buddy Hacket. lol

JonGrudensAgent writes:

in response to Apex:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Not really, had to google Rickles though.

JonGrudensAgent writes:

Azzani and company need to be hitting the JUCO's hard at WR.

I am not really in favor of going the JUCO route, but the wide receivers group needs a huge band aid on it thanks to Dooley's recruiting.

Hopefully, they put in calls already to Courtney Gardner, Markeith Ambles, Jatavius Stewart, Quantavius Leslie, Ted Meline and Javess Blue.

Ambles and Meline were recruited by Kiffin and may still have some level of interest in the Vols due to familiarity with the program.

VOL1972 writes:

Unless they left the program, we have several 4 star receivers aready on the team or committed who just don't have any experience.

That presents a lot of question marks, but it's not like the cupboard is bare with respect to WR's.

Pompey writes:

in response to Apex:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

.....Stripling strikes me as not having a sense of humor....not necessarly a bad thing for a DL coach....!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to Pompey:

.....Stripling strikes me as not having a sense of humor....not necessarly a bad thing for a DL coach....!

Agreed, I remember a photo of UT's defenders frolicking and kidding each other about a week before their first game..I thought to myself they don't seem very focused on FB, and apparently (judging from their play) they weren't focused at all. I think a little discipline (especially on the DL/OL is very important) for team chemistry..Sometimes a very strong leader in the line can override an immature LB/QB that are supposed to be leaders on the field..Here's hoping Stripling teaches those fundamentals..GBO!!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to VOL1972:

Unless they left the program, we have several 4 star receivers aready on the team or committed who just don't have any experience.

That presents a lot of question marks, but it's not like the cupboard is bare with respect to WR's.

You are absolutely correct, Croom in particular has the ability to be another Alvin Harper..UT has already seen spurts of Pig Howard and Drae Bowles may be able to see some action with Hunter and Patterson headed to the NFL. The talent is there if the coach's can bring it out and implement it..Spring will be interesting to say the least.

6972 writes:

Let's hope that the upcoming receivers develop quick. If they don't, it is going to be some long and tough Saturdays for the running backs this fall. Can't you see 7 in the box and a safety looking you eye ball to eyeball. Not my idea of fun for a running back...or a coach.

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

We know big Dan will be on defense.

But how about this for a scary thought? "It's 4th and goal at the one.......wait, is that Big Dan lined up right behind the QB?"

Touchdown!!!!! 30 seconds later, the stadium is still rocking !

VolGrad writes:

in response to Apex:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Somewhere between Mr. Clean and Don Rickles....

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Vols,

We know big Dan will be on defense.

But how about this for a scary thought? "It's 4th and goal at the one.......wait, is that Big Dan lined up right behind the QB?"

Touchdown!!!!! 30 seconds later, the stadium is still rocking !

Instead of the frig, UT could have the "walk in cooler"??..

BMSvol writes:

when our best recruit is a 5-10 receiver, its going to be another ugly few years for vol football

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to BMSvol:

when our best recruit is a 5-10 receiver, its going to be another ugly few years for vol football

That's absurd, there are plenty of solid WR's under 6 feet in CFB..

wigmeister writes:

in response to BMSvol:

when our best recruit is a 5-10 receiver, its going to be another ugly few years for vol football

IDIOT

VolGrad writes:

in response to BMSvol:

when our best recruit is a 5-10 receiver, its going to be another ugly few years for vol football

Wes Welker would not be welcome here? Wow!!!

Absurd.

OrangeBloodFlood writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

That's absurd, there are plenty of solid WR's under 6 feet in CFB..

Where you been Beare?As you can see nothing has changed here,new names....same idiotic comments What are you feeling about our new coach ?

voloffaith writes:

Is Vincent Dallas still here as well? The well isn't dry, but depth needed. Azzani gonna earn his pay if not much more signs on in few weeks...

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to OrangeBloodFlood:

Where you been Beare?As you can see nothing has changed here,new names....same idiotic comments What are you feeling about our new coach ?

Been finishing things..I love the Butch Jones hire, he has the moxie to get the players attention. He also has a system that is a proven winner, and that's something Dooley definitely didn't have. I'm looking forward to Spring fb this year, mainly because I want to see how well Worley and Peterman adapt to this style of play.

SoFlaVol writes:

What do you mean "formerly Wide Receiver U"? Based upon the NFL early entry of two stud receivers like Hunter and Patterson, I say we're still "Wide Receiver U"! And Rodgers looked pretty darn good in the slot as well. Offense wasn't the problem this past season. The fact that our receiving corps is inexperienced is because of the guys playing in front of them. In this position we will simply reload. Whether we have a guy that can get the ball to them is my concern.

BolivrBob writes:

I really like Azzanni. I think it is a great staff all around. I still like Mt. McCullers!

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