published Friday, January 13th, 2012

Vols get Pittman for line


Coach Position Why Left

Charlie Baggett Receivers Retired

Harry Hiestand Offensive line Notre Dame

Eric Russell Special teams/tight ends Washington State

Peter Sirmon Linebackers Washington

Justin Wilcox Defensive coordinator Washington

KNOXVILLE -- With plenty of work to do to fill four openings on his staff, Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley needed little time to fill one.

With Harry Hiestand becoming the fifth assistant coach to leave the Volunteers program since the end of the season, Dooley tabbed former North Carolina assistant Sam Pittman to replace Hiestand as UT's offensive line coach. Following five seasons as the Tar Heels' associate head coach and offensive line coach, the 50-year-old Pittman was not retained by new UNC coach Larry Fedora, who was hired last month.

"Sam has an excellent reputation and track record as an offensive line coach and as a recruiter," Dooley said in a UT release confirming the hire. "He brings a considerable amount to our program as a coach and a person, and we are excited that he is joining our staff."

A source close to the UT football program said Wednesday that Hiestand is expected to take a similar position on Brian Kelly's staff at Notre Dame, though the Irish had yet to officially confirm the move Thursday night.

According to UT's release, Hiestand "resigned to pursue other coaching opportunities." The school does not confirm assistant coach hires at other programs.

Before joining Butch Davis' staff at North Carolina in 2007, Pittman coached at Cincinnati, Oklahoma, Western Michigan, Missouri, Kansas and Northern Illinois. In his four years at Northern Illinois (2003-06), the Huskies had nine All-Mid-American Conference selections along an offensive line that paved the way for current Atlanta Falcons tailback Michael Turner and former Chicago Bears tailback Garrett Wolfe.

Despite returning all but one offensive linemen, the Vols finished 116th nationally this season in rushing, though they were markedly improved in pass protection. Tailback Tauren Poole, a 1,000-yard rusher in 2010, finished with just 736 yards this season. The Vols collectively averaged just 2.8 yards per carry and struggled to get a push and open holes consistently.

North Carolina redshirt freshman tailback Giovanni Bernard averaged almost 102 yards per game this season, and sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner led the ACC in passing efficiency. The Heels went 7-6 under interim coach Everitt Withers after Davis was fired in July amid an NCAA scandal.

Pittman also could help the Vols' recruiting in North Carolina, from which UT hasn't signed a player since 2008 (linebacker Austin Johnson and athlete E.J. Abrams-Ward). According to, Pittman is one of the nation's top 25 recruiters. He landed highly rated offensive linemen James Hurst and Kiaro Holts in the last two years.

Dooley still has three openings to fill, the most important of which is Justin Wilcox's replacement at defensive coordinator. Alabama outside linebackers coach Sal Sunseri interviewed in Knoxville on Wednesday, and Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green, a former UT-Chattanooga head coach, did the same Thursday. The Vols still are looking for a special teams coordinator as well.

Dooley will visit with the media this afternoon for a news conference that originally was scheduled for Wednesday to provide roster updates. New running backs coach Jay Graham will meet with the media for the first time.

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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