Tag Archives: Steve Stripling

Tennessee assistant coaching salaries remain unchanged for now

Linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen watches practice at Neyland Stadium earlier this month (photo by Evan Woodbery).

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — We updated our Tennessee football staff salary database last month and found no changes to the contracts originally signed by Vols’ assistant when they were by Butch Jones.

However, amid reports and speculation that one or more assistants were in line for a post-National Signing Day raise, we promised to keep checking.

UT responded to our public-records request this week and said there have been no changes to the contracts we were given last month. That means the salaries listed below still stand.

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All assistants signed two-year deals upon being hired. The second year of the deals run from March 1, 2014 to Feb. 28, 2015.

Most of the raise speculation  has centered on linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen, the Rivals.com recruiter of the year who helped land several major prospects for the Vols.

But any significant raise to Thigpen might require raises for other coaches to avoid upsetting the hierarchy. After the coordinators, assistant head coach Steve Stripling is the highest paid assistant. Willie Martinez became the second-highest paid non-coordinator when he was given the title “assistant head coach for defense.”

As we said last month, salary adjustments are still possible — maybe even likely. But as of this week, they haven’t taken effect. But we’ll keep checking.

Ranking the recruiters: Tommy Thigpen has been consistently near the top

Tommy Thigpen coaches Malik Foreman in practice last August (photo by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen, who was named Rivals.com recruiter of the year earlier this month, is one of several assistants who scored well in 247Sports’ recruiter rankings.

247Sports added the new ranking to its arsenal about a year ago, and has since used its database to rank assistant coaches from past years as well. (The numbers are not as complete as 2014, but are still useful to review).

The rankings show that Thigpen’s prowess as a recruiter is nothing new.

The change in coaching staffs at Tennessee makes it difficult to get an exact picture in 2013.

But in 2011 and 2012, Thigpen was No. 5 and No. 18 nationally, respectively, credited with signing a dozen recruits who helped build Auburn’s SEC championship team in 2013.

If recruiting rankings were once controversial, 247Sports opened up a whole new realm by ranking the recruiters. Initially, I thought coaches would freak out. Coaches are already a competitive breed, and I thought we’d see internal fights about who gets credit for signing each recruit. Maybe that stuff occurs behind the scenes, but I think most coaching staffs have long since made their peace with the recruiting industry. And 247Sports (full disclaimer: the company is a News Sentinel partner with GoVols247) has done a nice job pushing the franchise into new territory.

So let’s take a look at the 2014 rankings. Thigpen, No. 10 overall, was listed as the primary or secondary recruiter on an incredible 17 prospects in this cycle. (Second place was Cincinnati’s Robert Prunty with 14).

Other Vols assistants ranked this year:

Despite a midseason knee injury, running backs coach Robert Gillespie was a prolific recruiter. (photo by Evan Woodbery)

No. 28: Running backs coach Robert Gillespie

No. 38: Tight ends coach and special teams coordinator Mark Elder

No. 60: Defensive line coach and assistant head coach Steve Stripling

No. 107: Defensive backs coach Willie Martinez

No. 150: Receivers coach Zach Azzanni

Nationally, 247Sports said the top recruiter was Georgia’s Bryan McClendon. Former Vol quarterback and current USC assistant Tee Martin was No. 2.

But small sample sizes or a singe elite player can skew the one-year rankings. In 2013, there was a largely new crop of names in the top 10. (McClendon was No. 122; Martin was No. 92). Florida State’s Jeremy Pruitt, now defensive coordinator at Georgia, was No. 1.

The fluctuation shows that plenty of factors lead to a good recruiting ranking. It could depend on the number of players a team plans to sign at a certain position or whether it was a particularly strong year for a certain geographical area.

But Thigpen’s strength seems to transcend those fluctuations. And it’s worth noting that he was a closer of sorts for the Vols’ staff. Butch Jones put him on recruits that weren’t necessarily at his position or his geographic area.

Thigpen came to Tennessee after Auburn dismissed its staff in the wake of a dismal 2012 season. His link to Butch Jones’ Midwestern crew was Martinez, who was also on that Auburn staff in 2012.

Auburn’s coaching staff was stocked with top recruiters — including Trooper Taylor, running backs coach Curtis Luper, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and others. Coaches always pretend not to care about recruiting rankings, but it was either Taylor or Luper who once said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “If they’re keeping score, I want to win.”

That was refreshing honesty. And there’s no doubt that Thigpen has won a lot.

Recruiting on the river: Sunday morning boating has become staple of Vols’ weekend visits

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The gorgeous photo of Knoxville and Neyland Stadium is courtesy Vols receiver coach Zach Azzanni‘s Instagram account.

He has all the basics of photography down pat — good lighting, good framing. He didn’t go crazy with filters. He held the camera the right way. Thumbs up.

The photos from the Tennessee River you often see on Sunday mornings are from morning boat cruises that the Vols arrange as a finale for weekend recruiting visits.

The boat tours offer a way for coaches and players and families to hang out in an informal setting while getting a scenic view of Knoxville. It’s become a tradition of sorts under coach Butch Jones.

The weather can play havoc with the plans in the winter. On Sunday, as the photos illustrate, there was a one-day reprieve from the cold. It was sunny and brilliant, with a high of 51 degrees.

The Vols were scheduled to have five verbal commitments take official visits this weekend: Derek Barnett, Jerome Dews, RaShaan Gaulden, Todd Kelly and Vic Wharton.

Running back Darrel Williams was also scheduled to be in town, as the Vols are seeking to add another running back to their class.

Photo publicly posted by Vic Wharton (No. 4, to right of Butch Jones) this weekend. https://twitter.com/vwharton4

Tennessee football practice: After Monday practice, Vols get short break (video and photos)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Few argue that the offensive line is the strongest part of Tennessee’s football team.

Is it also the most important unit to the Vols’ success in 2013? John Adams weighs in with a column in today’s paper. I wrote about line coach Don Mahoney and how he worked to earn the trust of his new players. Brendan Quinn talked to running backs coach Robert Gillespie, who insists the Vols have no true No. 1 tailback.

The video is brief, because there wasn’t a whole lot to shoot on Monday. The Vols won’t have open practices on Tuesday or Wednesday. They’ll be back on the field Thursday, but camp is essentially over.

A few images from Monday:

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Tennessee football #PracticeGram: Scenes from Haslam Field

 

WR Jacob Carter, with QB Nathan Peterman in the background.

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — After a physical two-a-day on Monday, the Vols return to the practice fields this afternoon at 3:40 p.m.

There will be another two-a-day on Wednesday before the team’s official media on Thursday afternoon at Neyland Stadium.

We wrote today about Vincent Dallas moving to cornerback and what it means for the Vols’ defensive depth, plus a full complement of notes and quotes. Don’t forget to check out our practice video, too. (Watch it in your highest HD setting for best results.)

Now on to the photos. Click on the image for caption information and follow me on Instagram for immediate post-practice photos.

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Tennessee football practice: Quick review of Monday’s session

Don Mahoney, Tennessee

Tennessee offensive line coach Don Mahoney instructs players during practice at Haslam Field on Aug. 5, 2013, in Knoxville. (Photos by Evan Woodbery)

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee did some team work in the early session of Monday afternoon’s practice. The brief window offered few concrete details, but did reinforce how difficult it is for freshmen quarterbacks to win a starting job in August.

We’ll have more after we talk to coach Butch Jones and players later this evening.

* Among the notable plays from our view of the team work was a bad snap by third-string center Dylan Wiesman, a freshman, that sent quarterback Riley Ferguson scrambling after the ball.

Ferguson later threw an interception right in the numbers of safety Tino Thomas.

Co-third-team quarterback Josh Dobbs didn’t fare better, as he dropped a snap that hit off his hands in the last play we saw of the team drills before we had to leave for the evening.

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Tennessee football #PracticeGram: Scenes from the sidelines

Jason Croom leaps for a pass as RB coach Robert Gillespie looks on.

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The latest installment of images from Tennessee’s football practice is here.

If you want to see these images more quickly, you can follow me on Twitter or Instagram. Also, be sure to check out our practice videos from the first three workouts. If possible, watch them in HD settings for best quality.

Monday’s practice starts at about 4:30 p.m., which means we’ll have post-practice updates beginning at about 7 or so.

Pensive Butch during Sunday's practice.

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As Tennessee football starts new year, a look back at the news you may have missed over the holidays

butch-jones-presser2.JPGKNOXVILLE, Tennessee —  The holidays are over, which means in a few days it will be back to school and back to work for Tennessee‘s football team.

I hope everyone had a safe and fun New Year’s celebration.

Let’s recap some of the stuff that happened during the break.

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