Kevin Steele coming home to join Tennessee's defensive staff

Auburn Athletics photo / After spending the past five seasons as Auburn's defensive coordinator, Kevin Steele was hired Tuesday at Tennessee, his alma mater.

Kevin Steele is back at his alma mater.

After spending the past five seasons as Auburn's defensive coordinator, Steele was announced Tuesday afternoon as a defensive assistant at Tennessee. The specific role on Jeremy Pruitt's staff was not revealed for the 62-year-old Steele, who was a linebacker for the 1978-79 Volunteers under the late Johnny Majors.

"Kevin is someone I have respected and admired for a long time on and off the field," Pruitt said in a release. "I had the opportunity to learn and work with him during our time at Alabama, and our friendship grew from there. He has outstanding knowledge of the game and understands what it takes to be successful in this conference.

"Having coached under the great Johnny Majors, he has a sincere appreciation for what it means to be a Tennessee Volunteer. We are thrilled to welcome Kevin and Linda back to Rocky Top."

The Vols played the last six games of their 3-7 season without a defensive line coach following Pruitt's decision to fire Jimmy Brumbaugh after the 34-7 home loss to Kentucky. ESPN reported last week that Tennessee was in a hiring freeze due to an investigation into alleged recruiting violations that occurred late last year, but Steele's hiring was approved by university chancellor Donde Plowman and athletic director Phillip Fulmer.

This will be Steele's third coaching stint at Tennessee. He worked as a student assistant in 1980, a graduate assistant in 1981 and as outside linebackers coach in 1982, and he returned to Knoxville in 1987 for two seasons as defensive backs coach.

"Linda and I are excited to be coming home," Steele said. "Tennessee is a special place to me personally. I am truly grateful to Coach Pruitt and Coach Fulmer for this opportunity, and I am eager to get to work alongside them once again. I look forward to helping create an environment where our players are successful and truly embrace what it means to be a Volunteer."

Steele was linebackers coach for Nebraska's 1994 national championship team, spent four seasons as Carolina Panthers linebackers coach and then became head coach at Baylor University, where he compiled a 9-36 record from 1999-2002. He was Nick Saban's first defensive coordinator at Alabama in 2007 but experienced his most consistent success at Auburn, where four of his five defenses ranked among the top 20 nationally in fewest points allowed.

In 2017, when Auburn defeated Georgia and Alabama inside Jordan-Hare Stadium before losing the rematch to the Bulldogs in the Southeastern Conference championship game, Steele was a finalist for the Broyles Award. He worked all five years on the Plains under Gus Malzahn but was not retained by new coach Bryan Harsin, who recently hired former Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason as defensive coordinator.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported Tuesday that Steele has agreed to a two-year deal at $450,000 annually. He made $2.5 million this past season and is expected to receive a roughly $4 million buyout from Auburn.

Chandler to UNC

Former Vols running back Ty Chandler, who rushed for 2,046 yards during his four seasons in Knoxville before recently entering the NCAA transfer portal, announced Tuesday that he will use his extra year of eligibility allowed by the NCAA to play at North Carolina.

"I look forward to the journey that I'm about to go on and friendships that I will make with my new teammates," Chandler posted on social media. "This is going to be a special season in Chapel Hill, and I can't wait to get there."

North Carolina had two 1,000-yard rushers this past season with Michael Carter (1,245) and Javonte Williams (1,140), but each is moving on to the NFL.

Hoops postponed

Tennessee's scheduled basketball game Tuesday night at Vanderbilt was postponed Tuesday morning due to COVID-related issues within the Commodores program. The two teams are still scheduled to play Saturday in Knoxville.

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.