KNOXVILLE — Jeremy Pruitt described the assembly of his Tennessee football staff as a work in progress this week, saying the process may last through February.
But as the Volunteers' new head coach gets settled in Knoxville and focuses on recruiting ahead of the Feb. 7 signing date, he's settled on all but one of his on-field assistants.
Pruitt said he wants to create a family atmosphere and a place that "everybody feels comfortable coming" to as he completes his staff.
"Not only can these (players) learn about football from us but also can watch us be fathers, watch us be husbands," Pruitt said. "I think when you look at our staff, that's what we've gotten."
Tyson Helton: Pruitt has tabbed the Southern California passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach as the Vols' offensive coordinator. Before USC, Helton worked as the offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky under Jeff Brohm in 2014 and 2015. WKU's quarterback at the time, Brandon Doughty, led the nation in passing yards both years.
Helton also has worked at Cincinnati, UAB, Memphis and Hawaii. He played quarterback at Houston from 1996 to 1999.
"The first time I met Tyson was probably in about 2004," Pruitt said. "I was a defensive backs coach at Hoover (Ala.) High School, and Tyson was coming by recruiting at the time. I think he might have been at Memphis at that time. We met for the first time and kind of hit it off."
Kevin Sherrer: Sherrer and Pruitt were coaching against each other in the national championship game Monday night, Pruitt as Alabama's defensive coordinator and Sherrer as Georgia's outside linebackers coach. Behind the scenes, they have been working together on behalf of Tennessee. Pruitt has hired Sherrer as Tennessee's defensive coordinator.
After playing together at Alabama in 1995, the duo worked together on staffs at Hoover High, Alabama and Georgia. Sherrer's lone experience as a defensive coordinator came in 2013 at South Alabama.
"I'm really excited to have him here," Pruitt said. "We can kind of finish each other's sentences, so to say. He knows exactly what I'm looking for."
Chris Rumph: Pruitt has hired Rumph as Tennessee's co-defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach. Previously, Rumph was the co-DC and defensive line coach at Florida. When Rumph coached the defensive line at Alabama from 2011 to 2013, his office was next door to Pruitt's office.
"He's a great pass-rush technician," Pruitt said of Rumph. "We're excited to have him."
Will Friend: Another former teammate of Pruitt at Alabama, Friend will serve as the Vols' offensive line coach after spending three years as the offensive coordinator at Colorado State. The two worked together on staff at Georgia in 2014.
"There was times off and on when we were in college that we were roommates, so he's been one of my dearest friends over the years," Pruitt said. "So I know what kind of man he is."
Tracy Rocker: A standout defensive lineman at Auburn in the late 1980s, Rocker is back in the Southeastern Conference as Tennessee's defensive line coach after he was let go from that position at Georgia following the 2016 season.
Rocker and Pruitt were neighbors in Athens while Pruitt was on the Georgia staff. Rocker was the Tennessee Titans' defensive line coach from 2011 to 2013 and also has worked at Ole Miss, Auburn, Arkansas and Cincinnati, among others.
"Everybody knows what kind of player he was when he was in college," Pruitt said. "I'd always joked with him that my dad was an Auburn fan and (Rocker)'s so old that I used to go to fan day and I used to sit on his lap to get his autograph."
Robert Gillespie: Gillespie is not a former Pruitt teammate or co-worker. He's been on Tennessee's staff since 2013 as the running backs coach with additional roles such as recruiting coordinator and associate head coach. Gillespie is the lone holdover from Butch Jones' staff. Pruitt did not specify what Gillespie's exact title will be moving forward, but it's safe to assume the former Florida running back will continue coaching running backs.
"He's the one guy that I've not worked with," Pruitt said. "But it's kind of interesting: When you get an opportunity to interview for jobs, you're trying to figure out if you get that chance who are you going to hire. He's a guy that kind of came on my radar, so I'm excited to have him here."
Charles Kelly: The defensive coordinator under Jimbo Fisher at Florida State since 2014 is not accompanying Fisher to Texas A&M. His new job will be safeties coach and special teams coordinator at Tennessee.
Kelly and Pruitt worked together at Florida State in 2013 when Pruitt was the defensive coordinator for the team that won a national championship. Following Pruitt's departure for Georgia, Kelly was promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator. He spent several seasons as an assistant at Georgia Tech before arriving at Florida State. He played defensive back at Auburn from 1986 to 1989 and was a teammate of Rocker.
Brian Niedermeyer: Niedermeyer has been listed as the assistant director of personnel operations on the Alabama athletics staff directory, but he's poised for an on-field role on Pruitt's staff, possibly working with tight ends. Niedermeyer played tight end at Arkansas Pine-Bluff and jokingly asked Tennessee basketball forward Admiral Schofield on Twitter recently if he'd ever considered playing tight end.
"Brian Niedermeyer is a young guy that worked with us at Georgia, he followed us to Alabama, and we're going to give him an opportunity here on the field," Pruitt said.
Terry Fair: Fair was an All-SEC defensive back for the Vols in 1996 and 1997, and he's coming back to coach cornerbacks for Pruitt. Previously, Fair was a quality control assistant under Jones at Tennessee before working at Colorado State the past three seasons.
"He's a former Vol, and we actually joke when we were all playing, we played against each other, and one of my good buddies was the quarterback at Alabama at the time," Pruitt said. "We always kind of joked how many interceptions he threw Terry over the course of two or three years there."
Craig Fitzgerald: Pruitt hired Fitzgerald away from the NFL's Houston Texans to serve as Tennessee's strength coach. Strength coaches do not count toward the total of 10 assistant coaches that programs are permitted to have.
"I'm real excited about him, his background," Pruitt said. "I met with him. We kind of have the same beliefs, and we're excited about getting that going."
Contact David Cobb at email@example.com.
This story was updated Jan. 11, 2018, at 9:49 p.m.