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Former UT QB Is Best OC Pick | Volunteers

Let’s face it, fans love offense. Teams in the SEC better damned well better have a high octane offense because you can bet your bottom dollar, the defenses you’ll face week after week will eat you alive if you don’t. Tennessee’s offensive coordinator Mike DeBord has departed for a safer spot on Saturday afternoons in Indiana because of this revelation. SEC defenses are for real!

The VolunteersButch Jones has shown to be a motivator, a solid recruiter and the head coach who Big Orange fans want to succeed. But bet your bottom dollar, if he doesn’t find the real deal this time around, Butch will need to pick up forwarding address forms at the post office. Jones and the Vols are now faced with finding their third offensive coordinator during Butch’s tenure.

Before tears are shed for Jones, let me say, this isn’t the worst thing that could happen to Butch after a year where the Vols didn’t live up to the over-inflated expectations of the fan base. The right choice here (and there a few good ones) could propel UT to reclaim a position of glory from years past. The wrong option (translated: Butch’s friends) will have him interviewing in the MAC or Mountain West. Knoxville and the Vol Nation loves when a good guy wins, but reacts like an unblocked rabid Derek Barnett on an Alabama quarterback when you don’t. It’s won’t be pretty …and it’s gonna hurt.

Which way to turn, Butch? Who’s it going to be? Here’s my help.

Mark Helfrich is a name that will immediately jump to the top of the list. Over the past four years, Helfrich concluded his 37-16 run at Oregon as the head coach. Previously, he served as the OC for the Ducks and Colorado prior to that.

Yes, the wide open and high flying Ducks had an appearance in the 2014 National Championship game, but before Helfrich is handed the reigns, remember Chip Kelly still had his fingerprints on the program. Since then, 9-4 and 4-8 season followed in Eugene.

Maybe concentrating on the offensive game plan would be a better situation for Helfrich and the immediate credibility would be enough to make him the front runner for filling the vacant position. This, of course, is contingent on having enough of a bright future to entice Helfrich to Rocky Top, too. Imagine had he been named the OC a year earlier with a senior quarterback in Joshua Dobbs and THAT skillset. This could have been gold!
That was last year, however. The 2017 Tennessee team he would potentially operate as OC will have some bright spots, but maybe not enough to bring “the Helf” to the SEC party.

Zach Azzanni is another consideration, but has question marks associated with his name, along with too many Zs. Azzanni was considered in 2015 because he and Jones have a history. Azzanni was an assistant to Jones, proved his allegiance and has detailed knowledge of the system Butch operates. Azzanni also would come to the table with previous OC duties at Western Kentucky in 2011, passing coordinator at Florida in 2010 and he served as a receivers coach in Wisconsin, Central Michigan and Bowling Green.

Big difference in play calling for the Hilltoppers versus the Volunteers.

A few recognizable names to Vols fans would be much better options.

Who better than Tee Martin?! A former UT quarterback with a national championship ring and an OC who just helped USC (not South Carolina) with a Rose Bowl victory. He has the credentials, experience and the UT pedigree. In my own long term plan, Tee would be in place should UT need a head coach in the future.

The downside to Martin, he may be such a hot commodity right now that he could be seen more of a head coach candidate by other schools. That would be difficult for Martin to pass up.

So I plead with you now, Tee, come back home and feel the love of the Big Orange Faithful! (It’s my article. I can believe somehow that Tee Martin will read it and heed my advice.)

Then there is the other former Tennessee quarterback who is a hot name around the NFL. No, not that guy. I’ll talk about him soon enough.

Jim Bob Cooter is the current OC for the Detroit Lions, who is a former walk-on backup QB and grad assistant 2007-08 for the Vols. He appeared in a grand total of three games as a signal caller. He too, may have suitors for a head coaching job in the near future, but at the NFL level. Don’t rule out JBC, however. Where better to call home than a place where you may actually not be the only Jim Bob or Cooter on game day?

Other names expected to be in consideration:

Calvin Magee– Longtime friend of Jones and current OC in Arizona. Good pick, but not a sexy pick.

Herb Hand– Butch’s friend and OL coach at Auburn. Lacks experience as a play caller.

Larry Scott– Tight ends and special teams for the Vols. Excellent knowledge of several parts of the offense, but hasn’t called plays.

Matt LaFleur– QB coach for Atlanta Falcons since 2005 and former offensive assistant at Central Michigan where he worked with Jones. Same issue with lack of experience.

Finally, let’s mention another former QB for the Volunteers whose name will be mentioned in every conversation regarding the OC position. He’s Tennessee’s favorite son, has roads in Knoxville and hundreds, if not thousands, of kids named after him across the state; and holds multiple records in the NFL. He’s the biggest cheerleader for the university and its best known spokesperson. Every fan’s first pick, of course would be Peyton Manning.

At the risk of being the bearer of bad news, Peyton will not be calling plays for the Vols on Saturdays …other than from his recliner in his boxers and bathrobe. He’s contemplating how to own an NFL franchise and marketable combinations of pizza toppings.

Of course, nobody thought he would return for his senior year at Tennessee either.


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