published Friday, December 14th, 2012

UT confirms football assistants hirings

University of Tennessee football coach Butch Jones
University of Tennessee football coach Butch Jones
Photo by Patrick Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

BUTCH'S BUNCH

Tennessee confirmed the hiring of nine assistant coaches to Butch Jones' initial Volunteers staff. Here are those coaches and their positions:

Coach // Position

Mike Bajakian // Offensive coordinator/auarterbacks

Jay Graham // Running backs

TBA // Receivers

Mark Elder // Tight ends

Don Mahoney // Offensive line

John Jancek // Defensive coordinator/linebackers

Steve Stripling // Defensive line

Willie Martinez // Safeties

Tommy Thigpen // Cornerbacks

Dave Lawson // Strength & conditioning

KNOXVILLE — Tennessee's football program officially confirmed the hirings of nine assistant coaches for new head coach Butch Jones on Thursday.

Six coaches, including strength and conditioning director Dave Lawson, followed Jones from his old job at Cincinnati. Two others joined Jones after coaching at Auburn this season, and Jones retained one coach from predecessor Derek Dooley's staff.

The staff isn't complete, though, as Jones continues his search for a receivers coach. Former Tennessee national-title quarterback Tee Martin turned down an offer to rejoin the Volunteers earlier this week in favor of remaining at Southern California.

"I am very excited about the staff we have been able to attract here to the University of Tennessee," Jones said in the program's release. "I said at my press conference that it would start with effective communicators, great teachers and individuals that could become role models to our players. This staff features individuals that are fundamentalists in their techniques of the game and great recruiters who have a passion to be at Tennessee.

"We have been able to assemble a championship staff. When you look at the experience of these coaches over their careers, there is a great amount of continuity and familiarity."

Defensive assistants John Jancek, Willie Martinez and Tommy Thigpen have SEC coaching experience. Three offensive coaches -- Mike Bajakian, Don Mahoney and Mark Elder -- have coached in Jones' spread system all six of his seasons at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. Bajakian and Steve Stripling will remain with the Bearcats until their Belk Bowl matchup against Duke on Dec. 27.

Jones and his staff have been traveling all across the region visiting recruits with the NCAA-mandated dead period beginning next week. Jones admitted during an appearance on ESPN's "College Football Live" television show Thursday afternoon that the Vols are in "catch-up" mode in recruiting and he felt it was important to have most of his staff intact when he hit the road this week.

"Our staff is comprised of teachers and mentors from all levels of football that have been successful and know what it takes to win championships," Jones said. "I have done my due diligence to compose what I feel is one of the best coaching staffs in the country, and I knew everyone associated with Tennessee football will be proud of this staff. I know each of them is looking forward to representing the orange and being a part of Tennessee football."

Arkansas hires Pittman

New Arkansas coach Bret Bielema added a second former Tennessee assistant to his staff Thursday.

The program announced the hiring of offensive line coach Sam Pittman, who this season helped turn around a Vols unit that struggled mightily in 2011. The day before, Jim Chaney became the Razorbacks' offensive coordinator following four years on Tennessee's staff.

"Sam Pittman has earned a reputation as one of the finest offensive line coaches and one of the most relentless recruiters in the nation," Bielema said in the Razorbacks release. "He has demonstrated the ability to help linemen make remarkable improvement in a short amount of time. He also is able to relate to his players and simplify the game for them."

With multiple players with NFL ability, the Vols allowed just eight sacks this season and drastically improved in the run game. Some of his Tennessee linemen made public pleas for the Vols' new coach to retain him. Yet with Jones' bringing in his spread system, it made sense for him to find a better philosophical match.

Arkansas also announced the salaries for Chaney ($550,000) and Pittman ($275,000). Both coaches' salaries remain the same, but Chaney's contract at Tennessee guaranteed he'd be owed the $600,000 he was scheduled to make on the final year of his deal. Since his salary doesn't change at his new job, Tennessee owes Pittman nothing, as was stipulated in his contract.

about Patrick Brown...

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 ...

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