Tom Arth knew he wanted Demarcus Covington on his first University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football staff as soon as the two had a phone conversation.
"I knew he was a little bit different in a special way," Arth said. "I called our former defensive coordinator, Brandon Staley, at the time and told him I felt like I could offer him the job right now after that conversation."
Arth resisted, going through the process of having Covington in for a formal interview, but it was only a matter of time and the former Samford wide receiver was added to the UTC staff.
As an outside linebackers coach.
"When I first got into coaching, I was just trying to get the first opportunity anywhere I fit in," Covington said. "I played both ways in high school, so I was very familiar with defense, and the transition was really easy. I really wanted to coach, so it didn't really matter what position I was at, I just wanted to get in and learn."
Covington spent a season as a graduate assistant to Garrick McGee at UAB, then two seasons as a defensive assistant at Ole Miss before he got his first full-time coaching job as the defensive line coach at UT-Martin. After a year there, he was named the co-defensive coordinator at Eastern Illinois before receiving a call from new UTC offensive coordinator Justin Rascati, who had worked with Covington at UT-Martin.
"When he reached out to me, I realized it was a great opportunity to get back home down South, back close to family," the Birmingham, Ala., native said. He and his wife Tasha just had their first child, Cassius Christopher Covington, on Feb. 8.
"That, plus the brand of Chattanooga is very, very hot. The program is going up and it's a great place to be to win championships, and Justin bragged on Arth and how great the staff was, what they were going to do, what they stood for and what their core values were, and they were in line with my core values."
At UTC he's inheriting the most inexperienced position on the roster, and not simply because the program is making the transition from the 4-2-5 to the 3-4. The player with the most experience returning is senior D.J. Prather. After that are a bunch of unknowns, although the unit has performed well so far in spring drills.
"Outside linebacker is a unique position because you've got to be able to do it all," Covington said. "You've got to be able to stop the run, then you also have to know how to rush the passer. You need to know how to blitz but also drop back in coverage. You have to be able to play in space, play on your feet, but you need to have that aggression to play at the line of scrimmage, because you've got to play on tackles, play on tight ends, take on fullbacks, so their mindset and physicality are still the same as if they were a defensive end, but now we're trying to make them be more athletic when we put them out in space."
Arth has been pleased with what he's seen from Covington so far, instructing a group of youthful but talented and hungry players.
"Demarcus has an incredible way of relating to the players," Arth said. "He is very detailed in his approach, and he's so smart learning our defense to be able to go out and coach it. His position group, nobody has played at all, and to get them to go out there in the first five practices at the level they're playing at is a testament to his ability and his intelligence."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.