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UT Loses Hiestand, Hires Pittman, Waits On Sunseri

Tennessee’s search for a new defensive coordinator has taken several twists and turns in the past two weeks, but grabbing a new offensive line coach was smooth, easy sailing for Derek Dooley. 

Just hours after it was reported that Harry Hiestand would officially be leaving the Vols for Notre Dame, UT announced the hire of Sam Pittman from North Carolina.  Pittman’s reputation as a good recruiter aided Dooley’s decision.

“Sam has an excellent reputation and track record as an offensive line coach and as a recruiter,” UT’s coach said via release.  “He brings a considerable amount to our program as a coach and a person, and we are excited that he is joining our staff.”

Pittman joins new running backs coach Jay Graham (from South Carolina) as the new guys on the Vol staff.  But there will be more. 

Tennessee appears to be waiting on an answer from Alabama assistant head coach and linebackers coach Sal Sunseri about the Vols’ open D-coordinator job.  If he turns it down, it’s believed Navy’s Buddy Green — who interviewed in Knoxville yesterday — will land the position.

Dooley is also waiting on Rich Bisaccia of the San Diego Chargers to accept or turn down UT’s offer of the special teams coordinator position.

And, as we’ve noted before, if current Tennessee defensive lineman coach Lance Thompson is passed over for the coordinator promotion — and all signs suggest he will be — it’s possible that he might listen to other offers.

But for now, Tennessee waits for Sunseri to say yea or nay.

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UT Loses Another Assistant; Turnover Could Hinder UT For A While To Come

Earlier this morning we told you that Tennessee offensive line coach Harry Hiestand was pretty far along in talks with Notre Dame to become that’s school’s new O-line coach.  Now it’s being reported that Hiestand has finalized his move to South Bend.

According to Jimmy Hyams of WNML-AM/FM in Knoxville:


“UT OL coach Harry Hiestand takes a similar job at Notre Dame.  Vols now have 4 vacancies.”


None of this is good for Derek Dooley, of course.  The perception is that rats are jumping from the sinking ship he currently captains.  Hiestand is the fourth assistant this offseason to leave Tennessee for what amounts to a lateral move.  Another assistant simply retired.

The Volunteers’ recruiting class has already been affected by the turmoil.  Even worse for Vol fans, the turnover now could create a mess for Tennessee if Dooley fails to keep his job at the end of 2012.

A quick flashback — When Lane Kiffin arrived in Knoxville in 2009, he brought with him a so-called “super staff” of assistants who required high salaries and multi-year contracts.  When he left in January of 2010, he took only two of those aides with him to Southern Cal immediately — Ed Orgeron and his father, Monte Kiffin.

When the Volunteer administration set out to find a new coach, not only did they have to convince a new guy to take over a program that would suffer the attrition caused by two coaching changes in two years, but the new coach might also be stuck with many of Kiffin’s leftover assistants.  (Paying off Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee did not want to buy out multiple Kiffin aides, too.)

It turns out, Dooley was the only man who felt comfortable walking into the buzzsaw situation at Tennessee without knowing up front that he’d be able to build a full staff of his own people.  Eventually, Kiffin did come back and take a number of his coaches with him and only assistants Jim Chaney and Lance Thompson became holdovers.

Fast forward to UT’s current mess.  To land a quality staff for Dooley, the Vols will likely have to hand out some multi-year contracts.  Example: new running backs coach Jay Graham was already given a three-year deal to leave South Carolina.

If UT hires a solid staff with multi-year contracts and Dooley craps out next year, Tennessee will either have to buy out a lot of assistants or once again search for a new head coach who’ll be willing to step in and work with some other guy’s hires.

Top of the line candidates will want to have control of their coaching staff.

So if new AD Dave Hart okays multi-year deals in order to help Dooley land good assistants this time around, he’d better hope the third-year coach can show improvement in 2012.  Or else he may be stuck bringing in another Dooley-level hire next offseason.

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