KNOXVILLE -- There were four known openings on the University of Tennessee football staff Thursday night. There still were four known openings Friday night, but that was due to substitution.
Hours after defensive backs coach Willie Mack Garza quietly left Knoxville, the Volunteers announced the hiring of Memphis wide receivers coach Darrin Hinshaw.
Garza, who has received interest from former Vols head coach Lane Kiffin at Southern California, as well as the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, infuriated some in the UT program by quietly packing up his office and leaving town with little notice before Friday morning.
The Southern Cal sports information department would not confirm Garza's addition to the staff. The Orange County (Calif.) Register also couldn't confirm the news, but it said Garza's Knoxville departure "might signal the end" of the Trojans' relationship with defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Rocky Seto. Monte Kiffin will be his son's defensive coordinator, as he was last season for the Vols.
The Vols had declared only two coaching titles as of Friday night -- head coach Derek Dooley and assistant head coach and wide receivers coach Charlie Baggett. But included in their five other coaches is Terry Joseph, who was Dooley's secondary coach and recruiting coordinator at Louisiana Tech.
All five untitled assistants have coached multiple positions in their careers, and UT officials were adamant Friday night that their versatility was an asset that would help Dooley be more selective while finishing his staff.
Hinshaw also has shown versatility in his career. The 37-year-old former quarterback star at Central Florida has coached Memphis' wide receivers the past three seasons. He went to Memphis after one season as Georgia Southern's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. He spent the five seasons before that at Middle Tennessee State, where he was a running backs coach and co-offensive coordinator. His coaching career began at alma mater UCF in 1999, and he was quickly elevated to quarterbacks coach in 2000.
Hinshaw, who earned a master's degree in business administration from UCF in 1996, had a brief professional career playing for NFL's Cleveland Browns and the Arena Football League's Orlando Predators and Nashville Kats.
The biggest piece missing from Dooley's coaching puzzle remains the defensive coordinator. Lance Thompson, Kiffin's linebackers coach at UT last season, could be an option, but most expect Dooley to fill that void from the outside. Some prominent figures -- including but not limited to Alabama's Kirby Smart and Clemson's Kevin Steele -- have turned down the job.
Dooley has spoken at least twice with Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebackers coach Joe Barry about the position, and he reportedly also contacted Buffalo Bills defensive line coach Bob Sanders. Alabama linebackers coach Sal Sunseri is also considered a potential target, but few solid names have surfaced since Steele's surprising rejection of the position Wednesday.
West side story
The Vols will return to Neyland Stadium's west sideline for home games next season. They have not used that side since 1994, when a Southeastern Conference policy prohibited the home team's student section from sitting behind the visiting team's bench.
The sun shines brighter on the east sideline during afternoon games at Neyland, but that's just one of many factors why athletic director Mike Hamilton announced a return to the west side.
"Our players and coaches have discussed the advantages of moving the team back to the west sideline for several years, but we needed the cooperation of the students to make it happen," Hamilton said. "We are currently the only school in the SEC that has both bands, our students, opponents' fans, both (sets of) cheerleaders and the chain gang all on our home sideline. This move will make it easier for the coaches and players to communicate."
About 1,000 season-ticket holders and parts of the student section will be moved to keep UT's seating compliant with SEC policy. UT officials claimed they would, at no extra donation fee, move those season tickets to "comparable" locations in the stadium.
UT also announced a flat $10 price for student tickets next season. Different games cost $10 or $20 last season.
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