KNOXVILLE -- Changes to Tennessee's football coaching staff were expected.
They started at an unexpected position Thursday.
Esteemed receivers coach Charlie Baggett is "retiring" and will not return to the Volunteers next season, two sources inside the football program told the Times Free Press on Thursday.
Though multiple print and Internet outlets in Knoxville reported Baggett's decision to step down, UT has yet to confirm it. School officials did not return a call from the Times Free Press.
"No coach like cb ... ima miss my dawg," sophomore receiver Da'Rick Rogers from Calhoun, Ga., wrote on his Twitter account Thursday afternoon.
Most of the Vols' assistants have been on the road this week visiting commitments and prospects after the season-ending loss to Kentucky last week. NCAA rules prohibit an entire staff to be on the road at the same time, and Baggett has been in Knoxville all week.
Baggett, who turns 59 in January and also held the title of assistant head coach, was tied with defensive line coach Lance Thompson for the fourth-highest salary on coach Derek Dooley's staff. UT gave Baggett a $25,000 raise to $400,000 for his second year with the Vols. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox ($700,000), offensive coordinator Jim Chaney ($525,000) and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand ($475,000) have higher salaries.
An 11-year NFL coaching veteran, Baggett coached for the Oilers, Packers and Vikings before joining current Alabama coach Nick Saban's staff with the Miami Dolphins for two years in 2005. Dooley also was on that staff and hired Baggett from the St. Louis Rams when he took the UT job last January.
Baggett previously held collegiate coaching positions at Bowling Green, Minnesota and Washington with two stints at Michigan State, his alma mater.
"What can I say about this day?" wrote freshman DeAnthony Arnett, a Michigan native for whom Baggett was the primary recruiter.
Rogers caught 67 passes for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns this season under Baggett's tutelage. Justin Hunter, Baggett's other sophomore protege, was on his way to a big season when he tore ligaments in his left knee early in the loss at Florida in the season's third game. Though he played just two full games, Hunter was third on the team and second among receivers in receiving yards.
"Just caught that bad news," Hunter wrote on his Twitter account Thursday. "Ain't no replacing CB."
The list of receivers Baggett has coached during his more than 30-year coaching career is impressive. It includes Randy Moss and Cris Carter with the Vikings, Antonio Freeman and Bill Schroeder with Green Bray, Haywood Jeffries and Webster Slaughter in Houston and Chris Chambers in Miami.
Baggett coached future professional receivers Andre Rison, Plaxico Burress, Muhsin Muhammad and Derrick Mason in 14 seasons at Michigan State.
Former Vol Denarius Moore was drafted in April after he had nearly as many yards (981) as a senior under Baggett in 2010 as in his previous three seasons (1,023). Moore has 24 catches for 410 yards and four touchdowns as an NFL rookie with the Oakland Raiders.
Baggett also was a valuable recruiter for the Vols, who have three receivers currently committed for the class that will sign in February: Georgians Jason Croom and Keithon Redding plus Drae Bowles of Jackson, Tenn. UT was also a finalist for Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College's Cordarrelle Patterson, a 6-foot-4 receiver who's the nation's top-rated junior college prospect according to Rivals.com.
"No matter what, I'm all Vol," Redding wrote on his Twitter account. Other commitments wrote similar messages of support and loyalty Thursday.
Dooley simply shuffled his staff when defensive line coach Chuck Smith was not retained last offseason, but how he'll handle replacing Baggett remains to be seen after a 5-7 season.
"I think it starts with an individual commitment to the team and to the program, and then learning how to work together and be a part of a team," Dooley said after the loss at Kentucky. "It starts with our coaching staff, building trust with each other. We've just got to go to work. That's all we can do."
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 ...