Staff Photo by Robin Rudd 1999 UT quarterback Tee Martin is tackled near the endzone by Florida State defenders during Tennessee national title win.
KNOXVILLE -- New Tennessee football coach Butch Jones wasted little time in assembling his first coaching staff with the Volunteers.
The attention currently sits on the one opening left on his staff.
Though the program has yet to confirm any assistant coach hires Jones made in his first few days as the Vols' new coach, seven assistants -- five from Jones' staff at Cincinnati and two not retained at Auburn by new coach Gus Malzahn -- are listed in the university's online directory.
Running backs coach Jay Graham was the only coach Jones retained from Derek Dooley's 2012 staff, but the former Tennessee tailback might soon become one of two former Vols on Jones' staff.
Tee Martin, the quarterback on Tennessee's 1998 national championship team, was in Knoxville on Monday to meet with Jones about a position, according to sources inside the program. A former assistant at Kentucky, Martin is in his first season as the receivers coach at Southern California with former Vols coach Lane Kiffin. Martin has yet to decide if he'll join Jones.
"Obviously he's a great coach," Jones said when asked about Martin at his introductory news conference last Friday. "We all understand what he's meant to this football program. Obviously he would be an individual we would reach out to, but we're going to reach out to a lot of individuals."
Jones will bring five assistants from Cincinnati, including offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian and defensive coordinator John Jancek. Bajakian, offensive line coach Don Mahoney and versatile assistant Mark Elder all spent the past six seasons with Jones at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, and veteran defensive line coach Steve Stripling joined Jones' Central Michigan staff in 2009.
Jancek, Mahoney and Elder already have joined Jones in Knoxville, according to a Cincinnati spokesman. Bajakian and Stripling, the Bearcats' interim coach, appear likely to remain with the Bearcats for the Dec. 27 Belk Bowl against Duke in Charlotte.
Under Jancek, Cincinnati made improvements defensively each season. When he took over full-time play-calling duties this season, the Bearcats finished 12th nationally in scoring defense (17.2 points per game). Cincinnati was 41th nationally in total defense (373.8 yards per game) and forced 57 turnovers the past two seasons after registering 14 takeaways in 2010.
After one season at Auburn as the secondary coach, former Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez has joined Tennessee's staff. Martinez was fired following the 2009 season with the Bulldogs, with whom he'd spent the previous nine years, and spent the following two years coaching Oklahoma's secondary. Jancek was the linebackers coach under him at Georgia, and Jones was an offensive assistant when Martinez was the secondary coach at Central Michigan (1998-2000).
Tommy Thigpen spent this past season at Auburn as linebackers coach after three seasons as the Tigers' safeties coach. Regarded as a good recruiter, Thigpen coached linebackers at alma mater North Carolina for three seasons before jumping into the SEC. Given Jancek's expertise in coaching linebackers, Jones could elect to use both Thigpen and Martin in the secondary.
Stripling joined Jones' staff at Cincinnati after more than two decades in the Big Ten, where he made stops at Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Indiana.
Cincinnati averaged 31 points per game this season and 33 points per game last season under Bajakian, who worked with the Chicago Bears as a offensive quality control assistant before Jones hired him at Central Michigan.
"Offensively we're going to be a team that takes care of the football," Jones said at his introduction. "We're going to run a no-huddle offense. I don't like to use the term 'spread,' because I think that the word 'finesse' is associated with that.
"We're going to be a physical style of offense."
A former seven-year assistant at Tulane, Mahoney coached a Bearcats unit that paved the way for 1,200-yard rushers Isaiah Pead and George Winn the past two seasons. Cincinnati averaged nearly 200 rushing yards per game this season.
Elder, who's listed as Tennessee's tight ends coach in his Twitter profile, has spent time with all three phrases during his coaching career. He was Cincinnati's special teams coordinator/safeties coach this season after coaching running backs in 2011 and tight ends in 2010. He coaches Jones' linebackers at Central Michigan and has defensive coordinator experience at Wayne State and Iona.
The official titles and designations for Jones' staff won't be known officially until Tennessee confirms the hires. With one week remaining until the NCAA's mandated dead period for recruiting contact, Jones and the assistants already in Knoxville will spend the week visiting recruits. At the least, Jones will hit the road with his staff mostly set.
"It'll be a busy week," he said.
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...