Vols

Mike DeBord leaves, what now for Vols offense?

Mike DeBord leaves, what now for Vols offense?
Nate Hodges

Fire up the hot boards. It’s coaching search time in Tennessee. Butch Jones is at the crossroads again, this time on his side of the ball.

Mike DeBord is heading to Indiana to become the Hoosiers offensive coordinator in a move that is somehow shocking and not surprising at the same time. There’s been speculation around DeBord for weeks. Retirement or reassignment seemed like the most likely scenarios if a change was coming, but I don’t think anyone saw a lateral move to a lesser program.

While many have attempted to make the case that the offense wasn’t the problem for the 2016 Vols, the move itself suggest otherwise, no matter the driving force behind it. Tennessee did post impressive season stats on the offensive side of the ball the last two years with DeBord at the helm. But, inconsistencies at critical points in the season, especially against inferior competition this year, plagued the offense and ultimately had fans clamoring for staff changes.

Play calling is usually the first point of contention for fans when an offense can’t execute at key moments of big games. DeBord had a knack for being overly predictable with play selection. I’ll submit the sprint roll, flat, rub concept on 3rd and 4th and short as exhibit A. After working to perfection in the 2015 Georgia game for multiple touchdowns, it was the go-to call over and over and over again in 2016. It cost the Vols a 4th and goal against Florida and a key 4th down failure after a timeout in Tennessee’s worst loss of the season at South Carolina.

Most fans are still bitter over the conservative approach late in the 2015 losses to Oklahoma and Florida as well. What’s maybe more interesting though is the latest push from some fans and media members alike. A theme of “it wasn’t the offenses’ fault in 2016” has developed after Josh Dobbs finished a career just 18 yards short of Peyton Manning’s career yardage record.

Last year it was defensive coordinator Bob Shoop that was the crown jewel of Butch Jones’ staff improvements. This offseason he’ll have to replace his mentor in DeBord, a guy who was willing to run Jones’ “infallible” system the way the head man wanted it run. So the biggest question now is where does the Vols offense go from here?

Will Butch Jones look to replace DeBord with another coach who will execute his vision? Possibly someone already on staff? Or will the head coach bring in an established offensive guru, most likely a quarterback specialist and hand the keys over?

Mark Helfrich has already been around the program, is a quarterback guy and has coordinated a very similar style offense to the one Butch Jones prefers to run. Helfrich has also coached in a national title game and could bring valuable big game experience to a staff who’s struggled on big stages before. On the other hand, is Butch Jones willing to give up the control necessary? Would Helfrich make him too uncomfortable? And would the former Oregon head coach want to jump in at Tennessee in a year where Butch Jones’ seat is heating up?

If not Helfrich, could it be Zach Azzanni or Larry Scott from the current staff, or someone else from outside the program, possibly even the NFL? Regardless, fire up your hot boards and strap in, because this could be the most important decision Butch Jones has made as the head coach at Tennessee.

 

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Nate Hodges
@NateWKGN

Football expert Nate Hodges delivers an intelligent, entertaining blend of fanrun sports talk. Listen to 3&OUT with Nate and Houston, 7 to 10 a.m. weekdays.

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