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Vols Announce More Changes to Coaching Staff

Photo Credit: Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee and Butch Jones announced a pair of staff moves on Tuesday evening, confirming some long-rumored changes.

Defensive line coach Steve Stripling will move to director of football program development and will be replaced in his on-field coaching role by former Michigan, San Diego State and Ball State head coach Brady Hoke.

Hoke, who will also serve as the associate head coach for the Vols, joins Tennessee after serving as the defensive coordinator at Oregon in 2016.

“We are excited to welcome Brady and Laura Hoke to the football family,” Jones said in a release on Tuesday evening.”We feel extremely fortunate to get someone of Coach Hoke’s caliber that will continue to develop our defensive linemen while also providing expertise and experience to all of our players and coaching staff. He has an extensive track record of success as a head coach and on the defensive side of the ball. He will be a great fit to our entire organization.”

“Tennessee has a great tradition, a great program and a rabid fanbase,” Hoke added. “That is something you always want to be involved with. To come here and be a part of this staff — Coach Jones and I have known each other a long time — it’s something that we are very excited about and can’t wait to get started.

“I think we will work great together. These guys are all very professional at what they do. They are all in it for the right reason — to see kids grow from a spiritual standpoint to an academic and an athletic standpoint. Coach Shoop and I have been able to talk some and get together and I know Coach Thigpen. It’s something that we are very excited about. We can’t wait to get it started.”

The Vols also announced that they won’t renew the contract of offensive line coach Don Mahoney and will turn to Walt Wells at that position. Wells, who served as a quality-control assistant for UT in 2016, has over 21 years of coaching experience with stops at South Florida, Western Kentucky and New Mexico State among others.

“Coach Wells did a great job last season serving as a quality control coach on the offensive side of the ball and we are looking forward to him taking over the offensive line,” Jones said. “He has extensive experience as an offensive line coach and will do a great job with our players.”

Hoke will receive a two-year deal with $500,000 per season. Wells will be paid $300,000 per season for two years, according to figures from a team spokesman on Tuesday evening. Stripling is no longer under contract after this month, but will have a re-configured deal based on his new responsibilities at a later time.

The addition of Hoke gives Tennessee a big-name position coach with an extensive background in both recruiting and in coaching the defensive line. Before moving on to be a head coach, Hoke rose in the profession by coaching the defensive line at Michigan from 1995-2002, a stretch that included a national championship in 1997. As a head coach at Michigan, he also recruited several of the players that helped the Wolverines to a top-10 finish in 2016.

His defense at Oregon in 2016, however, was one of the worst in the nation. The Ducks (4-8) finished N0. 126 in the nation in both total and scoring defense, ultimately leading to the dismissal of coach Mark Helfrich. New Oregon coach Willie Taggart did not retain Hoke on his staff.

The Vols will hope Hoke can get back to his roots as a successful defensive line coach to help improve a defensive line that was fifth in the SEC in sacks (30) in 2016, but struggled against the run and needs to replace several key pieces in 2017.

Wells, on the other hand, will inherit an experienced, although inconsistent, group of offensive linemen that will return every key contributor with the exception of graduating senior Dylan Wiesman. A Nashville native, Wells worked closely with Mahoney in 2016, and now will get an opportunity to lead a unit that also adds five-star recruit Trey Smith to the mix in 2017

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