It seemed as though the hiring of David Johnson as wide receivers coach marked the end of Jeremy Pruitt’s staff-building project in Knoxville. However, National Signing Day passed, and with its passing came the departure of running backs coach Robert Gillespie, the lone holdover from the Butch Jones era.
Pruitt’s background is strong, but all on the defensive side of the ball, so his offensive staff will be crucial. The Vols’ new coach seems to be putting an emphasis on having recruiting ties nationwide.
Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach — Tyson Helton
Helton has served as quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator at USC for the past two seasons, and was named the FootballScoop Quarterbacks Coach of the Year in 2016. While serving as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach under Jeff Brohm at Western Kentucky, Helton coached current Miami Dolphins quarterback Brandon Doughty to back-to-back top 10 offenses, breaking several school records. Helton has never held full play-calling responsibilities, but is credited with developing quarterbacks like Joe Webb, Brandon Doughty and Sam Darnold.
2000: Hawaii (Grad Asst.)
2001-03: Hawaii (TE/Special Teams)
2004-06: Memphis (TE/Special Teams)
2007-12: UAB (QB/RB Coach)
2013: Cincinnati (TE/Special Teams)
2014-15: Western Kentucky (Offensive Coord./QB Coach)
2016: USC (QB Coach/Passing Game Coord.)
Offensive Line Coach — Will Friend
Will Friend comes to Knoxville after serving as the offensive coordinator at Colorado State for the last three seasons. However, head coach Mike Bobo calls the plays for the Rams, so Friend primarily focused on the offensive line and running game. Under Friend’s watch, the CSU offensive line was tied for second in the country in sacks allowed this season, only permitting 0.67 per game. Friend and Pruitt’s relationship goes back to their days playing at Alabama, where they were roommates.
2007-11: UAB (OL Coach)
2011-14: Georgia (OL Coach)
2014-17: Colorado State (Offensive Coordinator)
Running Backs Coach — Chris Weinke
The final addition to Tennessee’s staff is former Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke to replace the outgoing Gillespie. This move surprised some, considering Weinke is a former quarterback who has never coached running backs, but Pruitt has been eager to add Weinke to his staff since he became the head coach. Reports surfaced in December saying Weinke would join the Tennessee staff then, but the move never finalized.
Fast-forward two months, and the former Heisman winner is officially on the staff. Weinke’s coaching career is young, but he is a national champion as a player and assistant coach. There’s no question that his five years as the head coach at IMG Academy will be invaluable for recruiting, as IMG is known for pumping athletes into multiple Division I sports.
2010-14: IMG Academy (Head Coach)
2015-16: St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams (QB Coach)
2017: Alabama (Offensive Analyst)
Wide Receivers Coach — David Johnson
David Johnson started his career making stops at a few Louisiana high schools, where he has several recruiting connections. Johnson spent the last two seasons as the wide receivers coach at Memphis, and turned walk-on Anthony Miller into one of the top wide receiver prospects in the 2018 draft. This is not Johnson’s first SEC opportunity, as he turned down an offer from LSU to coach the same position a year ago.
1997-2000: John F. Kennedy HS (Asst.)
2000-05: O. Perry Walker HS (Offensive Coordinator/WR/TE Coach)
2005-08: Millsaps College (WR/TE/Special Teams/Recruiting Coord.)
2009-11: St. Augustine HS (Head Coach)
2012-15: Tulane (RB/TE Coach)
2016-17: Memphis (WR Coach)
Tight Ends Coach — Brian Neidermayer
Neidermayer is the least experienced of Tennessee’s on-field staff, but Pruitt has put enough trust in him to visit some of Tennessee’s top recruiting prospects around the country. Neidermayer played his college football at Arkansas Pine-Bluff before making stops in Miami and at Division III school East Texas Baptist before landing at Alabama as a graduate assistant. Neidermayer was then promoted to his role as Alabama’s assistant director of personnel operations before leaving Tuscaloosa to join Pruitt in Knoxville.
2012-13: Arkansas Pine-Bluff (Grad Asst.)
2013-14: Miami (Defensive Quality Control)
2014-15: East Texas Baptist (WR Coach)
2016: Alabama (Grad Asst.)
2017: Alabama (Asst. Director of Personnel Operations)