It’s incredibly early in the process, as news just broke of Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian’s departure on late Thursday morning. But here’s a look at some of the names that have ties to the program, have been mentioned as a possible replacement for Bajakian or who just make sense as a potential candidate to become just the second offensive coordinator under Butch Jones as a head coach.
It’s unclear if Butch Jones will look to hire somebody who can be a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator like Bajakian or if he’ll look for the best overall candidate and then slide the other assistants around as needed, so we’re just looking at people who could be the OC and then we’ll see what happens after that.
Current Role: Receivers coach/recruiting coordinator at Tennessee
The connection: Very obvious here. Azzanni has been with the Vols for the past two seasons and was with Butch Jones as an assistant at Central Michigan from 2007-09.
Pros: Azzanni knows the offense as well as anybody and is the only offensive assistant coach currently on staff that has experience as a coordinator at a high level. He was the OC at Western Kentucky in 2011 and the passing game coordinator at Florida in 2010 as well. He’s a good recruiter, knows Jones’ system in and out and has a fantastic grip on understanding UT’s overall personnel as well. There’s a strong argument, after the end of 2014, that UT’s offense is on track to be incredibly potent next year, so the assumption can be made that continuity should be key in this hire.
Cons/Questions: While he has some experience as more than a position coach, he’s only really overseen an entire offense for one season in his career (2011), and that was for a 7-5 Western Kentucky squad that season. He also seems to excel in his current role as a recruiting coordinator, and that title would need to shift if Azzanni stepped up. With such potential for the next couple of years, would Butch Jones, who traditionally has trusted his offensive coordinator to call the entire offense without too much interference, be comfortable letting somebody take over with little play-calling experience?