Mike Strange: Steve Stripling hopes to bring stability to ever-changing defensive line coaching position

Mike Strange
Cincinnati coach Steve Stripling, left, holds the trophy as Brendon Kay, right, raises his MVP trophy after defeating Duke in the Belk Bowl NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012. Cincinnati won 48-34. Stripling, now Tennessee's defensive line coach, was serving as head coach for the game because former Bearcats and current UT head coach Butch Jones and most of his staff had already left to join the Vols. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Cincinnati coach Steve Stripling, left, holds the trophy as Brendon Kay, right, raises his MVP trophy after defeating Duke in the Belk Bowl NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012. Cincinnati won 48-34. Stripling, now Tennessee's defensive line coach, was serving as head coach for the game because former Bearcats and current UT head coach Butch Jones and most of his staff had already left to join the Vols. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

The names on the office door keep changing: Chuck Smith. Lance Thompson. John Palermo.

And if you've been around the Tennessee football roster as long as Marlon Walls, there's even Ed Orgeron.

Now there's Steve Stripling.

Stripling is, for the record, Tennessee's sixth defensive line coach in six years, dating to the Dan Brooks/Steve Caldwell tandem on Phillip Fulmer's staff in 2008

Stripling arrived a few weeks ago, appointed by Butch Jones, the man entrusted with revitalizing a once-elite program fallen on hard times.

Turnover has played a lead role in Tennessee's tumble from prominence and no position has turned over more than the defensive line.

As first impressions go, Stripling, a 30-plus-year coaching veteran, presents a solid anchor in a frothing current of comings and goings. This isn't his first rodeo.

He has been aligned with Jones for the past four seasons, one at Central Michigan, then three at Cincinnati.

Jones has a special trust in the 59-year-old Stripling, enough to award the title at UT of assistant head coach. He held similar designations at Central Michigan and Cincinnati and stayed behind in Jones' wake to supervise both teams through bowl games.

"Butch is an attention to detail coach,'' Stripling

said. "I think he has confidence in me that if he is out of the room or off the field, I can step in.''

Stripling doesn't share the Michigan roots of Jones and several members of the staff. He grew up in New Mexico and played football at Colorado.

He still found his way to the Midwest and spent the bulk of his career — 22 years — in the Big Ten, at four different schools.

Tennessee is Stripling's first venture into the SEC, but as he said last week in an introductory session with the Knoxville media, he's coached in big stadiums and worked with blue-chip players.

For three years he coached in the biggest stadium, the one in Ann Arbor, Mich., on the staff of Lloyd Carr.

That's where he tutored perhaps his best known student. Michigan's LaMarr Woodley in 2006 won both the Lombardi Award as the nation's top lineman and the Ted Hendricks Award as the top defensive end.

A few years earlier, Stripling helped Louisville's Dewayne White become Conference USA's defensive player of the year.

Perhaps that kind of resume will help Stripling sell himself to his new players, guys who have never had the same position coach from one year to the next.

"It's not going to happen overnight,'' he said.

"I hope my track record, ... they can see Coach Strip has spent time with quality players, that he can help us get to where we want to be.''

And, oh yeah, there's another transition complicating the learning curve. The Vols are returning to the 4-3 front they played prior to 2012's defensive debacle in the 3-4.

"Playing D line is playing D line,'' Stripling said. "There might be a little difference in technique. But I'm more concerned about the transition they've had with different coaches in different years and getting some continuity.''

As he said, continuity and trust won't happen overnight.

Imagine the possibilities if his name is still on the door in 2014.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 19

FWBVol writes:

Our struggles on the field and in recruiting have as much to do with coaching turnover as anything else. Continuity of head coach and staff make a huge difference in how a team performs on the field.

Yes, a three-point stance is a three-point stance no matter who is coaching, but the techniques coaches teach and how the line, linebackers and secondary coordinate can change from defense to the next.

I hope for the sake of the team first and fans second that this staff is together for several years and we enjoy the success that goes with it.

PUL4VOLS writes:

He has the background and surely seems to know what is needed. I agree FWB I hope this staff can get it together and show progress even in the first year if possible. We will especially need to see steps forward in the second. Whatever is going to happen, it's on now with recruiting and a group of coaches which to me seem very glad to be here. GO BIG ORANGE!

volthrunthru#658770 writes:

Stripling is a pro. He knows DL...and some other positions, too. He has the big-time experience to be a HC, somewhere.

Jones and company, without Stripling and the guy(s) already here that were Vols already, are not impressive on their resumes, when considering Big Time coaches. Maybe mid-majors. Not top of the heap.

And the SEC is top of the heap.

Stripling knows what he is doing. He is at a level with some of Fulmer's better coaches, and his resume shows it.

Good hire. The kind of coach who can be couinted on to restore Tennessee to a higher position in the SEC.

Don't get me wrong; he is, IMO, not as good as Dan Brooks. But he is as good as Caldwell. Have seen his people play multiple times.

Don't know about his recruiting skills.

Betcha he would not be sending letters on University letterhead to recruits and parents with grammatical errors or phrases that make no sense.

But then, he has succeed in the Big Time before. He is not using UT to train for the Big Time. He is a guy who helped Jones become good enough to bring a staff good enough to go to Cincinnati, IMO.

I wish the rest of the staff Jones brought were as good as Stripling.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Maintain gaps and good leverage are things UT hasn't done well since 07. I hope to see much improvement in the edge rushing and overall play of the D-line this year..GBO!!

agentorange writes:

Tennessee football is seriously on life support. It's just painful to be a fan.

Ichabod writes:

This is an old worn out Merry Go Round in a land of new Disney rides. It is no longer flashy or pretty, has melted ice cream all over the floor, and sleepy operators at the switch. Thanks to the staff for their attempt to right the ship (while at the same time doubling their salaries),
But quite frankly I don't find them to be "the best coaching staff in the country", and I worry greatly about the total loss of just not Tennessee heritage, but SEC knowledge and ties, as well.
This has gotten old, fast, and ultimately, no amount of Harts Grecian Formula can hide the gray.....

orangiac writes:

in response to Ichabod:

This is an old worn out Merry Go Round in a land of new Disney rides. It is no longer flashy or pretty, has melted ice cream all over the floor, and sleepy operators at the switch. Thanks to the staff for their attempt to right the ship (while at the same time doubling their salaries),
But quite frankly I don't find them to be "the best coaching staff in the country", and I worry greatly about the total loss of just not Tennessee heritage, but SEC knowledge and ties, as well.
This has gotten old, fast, and ultimately, no amount of Harts Grecian Formula can hide the gray.....

That is it in a very poetic nutshell. Looks like someone actually attended those English classes that I skipped

Rumblefish writes:

I sort of feel sorry for these coaches. If they show no progress THIS YEAR...they are going to feel the heat of the fan base and the empty Neyland is going to put the pressure on the athletic department even more.

Sure, you'll have some folks on here stressing "patience" and "the process" and will definitely hear a few "buying in" quotes.

But the fact remains...this fan base has been patient, and is just plain fed up.

Unfortunately, recruiting is struggling....BIG TIME. Butch Jones and company will have to win with less talent in order to bring in the good 4* and 5* recruits in the future.

sameolvolalum writes:

in response to Rumblefish:

I sort of feel sorry for these coaches. If they show no progress THIS YEAR...they are going to feel the heat of the fan base and the empty Neyland is going to put the pressure on the athletic department even more.

Sure, you'll have some folks on here stressing "patience" and "the process" and will definitely hear a few "buying in" quotes.

But the fact remains...this fan base has been patient, and is just plain fed up.

Unfortunately, recruiting is struggling....BIG TIME. Butch Jones and company will have to win with less talent in order to bring in the good 4* and 5* recruits in the future.

Patience is what it is......patience; and quite a few of you youngsters are lacking it. What better course to take than implementing a virtually intact coaching staff.....all on the same page. You're complaining about higher salaries. Now it's your turn. Who would YOU hire (particularly at that bargain you'd like), wow would you convince them to move to Knoxville? And, how can you expect anybody to turn this truck around in just one season? Your turn.

jakethevolguy writes:

I think we will see progress next year. After all, it couldn't be much worse. Let the healing begin. GBO!!

6972 writes:

If anyone is looking for a miracle this year, you will find some in the Bible. Otherwise, we need a little bit of patience. Rome wasn't built in a day....in fact it probably took a couple of years. I want to win a bad as anyone. But without a little patience with this staff, we might need to take up chess.

Rumblefish writes:

in response to sameolvolalum:

Patience is what it is......patience; and quite a few of you youngsters are lacking it. What better course to take than implementing a virtually intact coaching staff.....all on the same page. You're complaining about higher salaries. Now it's your turn. Who would YOU hire (particularly at that bargain you'd like), wow would you convince them to move to Knoxville? And, how can you expect anybody to turn this truck around in just one season? Your turn.

I'm complaining about higher salaries?? When/Where did I even MENTION salary????

Who would I have hired? Jim Harbaug from Stanford/49'rs. And I wouldn't have offered bargan basement prices for him and his staff either.

Finally...i'm not expecting him to turn it around in one season. That's why I said "I FEEL SORRY FOR THE COACHES".

Care to try again?

Pompey writes:

....if this man can recruit lineman in the mid-west things could get interesting very fast....

seaplane#216536 writes:

in response to orangiac:

That is it in a very poetic nutshell. Looks like someone actually attended those English classes that I skipped

"Patience is a virtue, so I will not desert you". I learned this in one of the English classes that I attended. D+.

BruisedOrange writes:

As proof that VFLs are the most passionate, supportive fans in the NCAA... we don't hope, we DEMAND stability -- NOW!

Patience is for loosers (sic)!

[/sarcasm]

Olddogsrule writes:

The majority of coaches on this new staff have already shown they have the football savvy and recruiting capabilities to have won three conference championships in two different conferences. Can we all (KNS staff included) not stop the constant, constant, childish whining about the past; and say from this day on that, "All else is History", and recognize the achievements of the players, staff and recruits we do have and help them build the program by enthusiastically supporting them, and welcoming all the new VFL's come national signing day? We have a lot of people who want to be at UT and do the best they can to advance the program. Coach Strip is one of them, and he along with the rest of the coaches and players have my wholehearted support. GO VOLS!

woodwr#217203 writes:

in response to sameolvolalum:

Patience is what it is......patience; and quite a few of you youngsters are lacking it. What better course to take than implementing a virtually intact coaching staff.....all on the same page. You're complaining about higher salaries. Now it's your turn. Who would YOU hire (particularly at that bargain you'd like), wow would you convince them to move to Knoxville? And, how can you expect anybody to turn this truck around in just one season? Your turn.

Even a LOT of progress might not be enough to pass up the well-coached, talented SEC East Teams quickly enough for the new staff to turn the recruiting corner.

For 30+ Majors-Fulmer Years Vanderbilt & Kentucky were almost never competitive, and South Carolina and half the SEC West teams usually weren't either.

Back then beating Georgia or beating Florida was enough to tie for the Division, and non-conference games assured a mediocre bowl.

gc_scvol writes:

in response to Olddogsrule:

The majority of coaches on this new staff have already shown they have the football savvy and recruiting capabilities to have won three conference championships in two different conferences. Can we all (KNS staff included) not stop the constant, constant, childish whining about the past; and say from this day on that, "All else is History", and recognize the achievements of the players, staff and recruits we do have and help them build the program by enthusiastically supporting them, and welcoming all the new VFL's come national signing day? We have a lot of people who want to be at UT and do the best they can to advance the program. Coach Strip is one of them, and he along with the rest of the coaches and players have my wholehearted support. GO VOLS!

I agree completely. Being an old Vol fan, I have seen my share of the ups and downs. The constant whining and complaining you refer to is basically the work in part of The KNS staff (using several screen names),not all the staff, but we know which ones. This is done to give the illusion of more people reading the web site. The other guilty parties are the ones commonly refered to as trolls, and kids seeking attention. We will see OUR VOLS rise to the top again. Just keep the faith, ignore the negatives, and support CBJ and his staff and OUR TENNESSEE VOLS. We'll get there. VFL...GBO

OrangeBloodFlood writes:

in response to gc_scvol:

I agree completely. Being an old Vol fan, I have seen my share of the ups and downs. The constant whining and complaining you refer to is basically the work in part of The KNS staff (using several screen names),not all the staff, but we know which ones. This is done to give the illusion of more people reading the web site. The other guilty parties are the ones commonly refered to as trolls, and kids seeking attention. We will see OUR VOLS rise to the top again. Just keep the faith, ignore the negatives, and support CBJ and his staff and OUR TENNESSEE VOLS. We'll get there. VFL...GBO

Well Said !

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