Tennessee appears to have rounded out its offensive staff under new football coach Josh Heupel while turning to a familiar face for the defensive front and in a new direction for a defensive coordinator.
Yahoo Sports reported Thursday afternoon that Heupel is hiring Rice offensive coordinator Jerry Mack as his running backs coach. Tennessee has yet to announce any official staff hires, but the Chattanooga Times Free Press has been among multiple media outlets to report that former Auburn receivers coach Kodi Burns will have the same role at Tennessee and that Heupel is bringing three assistants off his former staff at UCF: offensive line coach Glen Elarbee, tight ends coach Alex Golesh and quarterbacks coach Joey Halzle.
Whether Heupel has one offensive coordinator or designates co-coordinators is unknown at this point, but Heupel has already stated he will handle play-calling duties.
Mack spent the past three seasons as Rice's offensive coordinator, adding the title of associate head coach in February 2019. Before his role with the Owls, he was head coach at North Carolina Central University, compiling a 31-15 record from 2014-17 and winning at least a share of three consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championships.
In 2016, Mack was named HBCU Football Coach of the Year by the Black College Sports Page and the Pigskin Club in Washington, D.C.
Yahoo Sports reported Thursday night that Tennessee is also adding Rodney Garner as its defensive line coach. Garner had that role with the Volunteers during the 1996-97 seasons before spending the next 15 years at Georgia.
In 2013, Garner returned to Auburn, his alma mater, and coached Tigers defensive linemen the past eight seasons under Gus Malzahn. When Malzahn was fired in December, Garner was not retained by new Auburn coach Bryan Harsin.
Garner helped produce seven NFL first-round selections during his time at Georgia and Auburn: Richard Seymour, Marcus Stroud, David Pollack, Charles Grant, Johnathan Sullivan, Dee Ford and Derrick Brown.
Heupel's hunt for a defensive coordinator was centered earlier this week on Ohio State linebackers coach Al Washington, but Washington elected to remain with the Buckeyes on Thursday, according to reports from Football Scoop and 247Sports.com. Football Scoop reported Thursday that Tennessee also has been in contact with Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive line coach Kacy Rodogers, the former Vols defensive end and linebacker who played on the 1989-90 Southeastern Conference championship teams.
Rodgers has been with Tampa Bay the past two seasons, with the play of defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul aiding the Bucs in their recent drive to the Super Bowl LV title.
Before joining the Bucs, Rodgers spent four seasons as defensive coordinator of the New York Jets. The Jets had a top-10 defense in 2015 but struggled for much of the next three seasons.