Tag Archives: Tee Martin

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.

Tennessee among 6 finalists for 5-star prospect Adoree Jackson

KNOXVILLE,TennesseeAdoree Jackson, a five-star cornerback prospect from California, is down to six finalists. 

Not surprisingly, Tennessee was among the group.

Florida, LSU, Oklahoma, UCLA and USC were the others.

Jackson is the No. 1 player in California and the No. 2 cornerback and No. 7 overall prospect in the nation according to the 247Sports Composite. So he’s accustomed to the attention that comes from even an announcement of “finalists.”

All six teams were listed in alphabetical order.

For what it’s worth, the 247Sports Crystal Ball gives the Vols virtually no chance of landing Jackson. Most of the 50 experts expect he’ll stay close to home and sign with Southern Cal. His recruiter? Former Vols quarterback Tee Martin, who was retained by new USC coach Steve Sarkisian.

The Vols would undoubtedly find room for Jackson on their crowded commitment list.

Butch Jones on new WRs coach Zach Azzanni: ‘I think he’s the best in the country’

zach-azzanni.jpgKNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Receivers coach Zach Azzanni was the final coach hired Butch Jones’ rapidly assembled staff.

While Azzanni had close links to Jones, his path to Knoxville wasn’t a given.

Jones could have turned to his receivers coach and recruiting coordinator at Cincinnati in T.J. Weist. He pursued and offered the job to former Vol great Tee Martin. (Martin turned the job down to remain at Southern California).

But ultimately Jones turned to Azzanni, his assistant head coach at Central Michigan who later served at Florida, Western Kentucky and most recently Wisconsin.

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Tennessee’s search for a receivers coach: Zach Azzani has close links to Butch Jones, CMU

zach-azzanni.jpgKNOXVILLE, Tennessee — It’s the only position left to fill on Butch Jones’ first staff as Tennessee head football coach.

That means, of course, that we will spend an inordinate amount of time dissecting the vacant wide receiver position, especially in the wake of Tee Martin’s decision to decline an offer from UT to remain at Southern California.

We updated the list Thursday to include Wisconsin receivers coach Zach Azzanni, who makes a lot of sense for many reasons.

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Searching for Tennessee’s receivers coach: Some names to watch

butch-jones-presser.JPGKNOXVILLE, Tennessee — It’s the only position left to fill on Butch Jones’ first staff as Tennessee head football coach.

That means, of course, that we will spend an inordinate amount of time dissecting the vacant wide receiver position, especially in the wake of Tee Martin’s decision to decline an offer from UT to remain at Southern California.

We don’t know what Butch Jones is thinking, so this post is largely speculative. But to inform our list, let’s take a look at the attributes Martin would have brought the staff….

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Tee Martin saga leaves unanswered questions, but firm statement seems to tie him to USC

tee-martin.jpgKNOXVILLE, Tennessee — The roughly 36-hour Tee Martin saga is over, and the ending was a kick in the gut for Tennessee fans.

No, the UT coaching staff will not be made or broken by the hiring of a receivers coach, but the addition of Martin would have offered a practical recruiting boost for Butch Jones’ staff and a nice morale boost for fans eager to see one of their favorite heroes return to Knoxville.

When Tee said, ‘No thanks,’ the inevitable online meltdown did in fact occur, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, for all the Twitter-hate sent in Martin’s direction, there were plenty of sensible fans who wished him well.

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Butch Jones on verge of completing his staff; here’s what it might look like

tee-martin.jpgKNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Only three days after he was hired, new Tennessee coach Butch Jones appears to be on the verge of finishing his first coaching staff.

UPDATE: Southern California assistant and former Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin is in Knoxville meeting with Jones today.

Cincinnati confirmed and Mark Elder tweeted that he would joining the Vols as tight ends coach (and presumably special teams coordinator). Elder has handled a variety of positions for Jones, most recently coaching safeties. Defensive coordinator John Jancek has already been removed from the list of coaches at UC and is ready to work in Knoxville. UC also confirmed that offensive line coach Don Mahoney was leaving immediately for UT.

Remember, the Bearcats will still need coaches to handle the team’s appearance in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 27, so it’s possible the rest of Jones crew might not arrive until then. Or it’s possible they could juggle dual roles between the two schools.

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