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Alabama Reportedly Has “Strong Interest” in Vol Assistant Coach

Photo via Nathanael Rutherford/RTI

Alabama head coach Nick Saban is having to replace a lot of his coaching staff after this past season. And he may be looking to Tennessee to fill one of his open positions.

According to long-time Knoxville media member John Brice, Alabama has “strong interest” in Tennessee safeties coach and special teams coordinator Charles Kelly. Kelly was recently offered the defensive coordinator position at Maryland, but he turned down their offer.

Kelly was pulled from the recruiting trail as he mulled over Maryland’s offer, but he hasn’t been reported to have gone back out on the road since turning down the Terrapins. Brice also reports that Tennessee wide receivers coach David Johnson has been off the recruiting trail as well, though he doesn’t offer up a follow-up on that.

Former Vol quarterback and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin has been hired on as part of Jeremy Pruitt’s staff at Tennessee, but he hasn’t been formally announced yet because there isn’t technically a spot available for him on UT’s coaching staff. Schools are allowed to have 10 on-field coaches, and a school can only send out 10 coaches at a time to go on the road and visit prospects on the recruiting trail. Kelly was removed so Martin could go on the road, but Johnson’s reported departure is new news.

It’s also not mentioned what position Kelly is being looked at for Alabama, but it’s likely it’s the Tide’s vacant defensive coordinator position.

Kelly just finished his first season at Tennessee following four seasons as Jimbo Fisher’s defensive coordinator at Florida State. In 2013, Kelly was the linebackers coach for the Seminoles while Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt was the defensive coordinator.

At Florida State, Kelly’s defenses ranked in the top-25 in three out of the four seasons he was their coordinator. In 2016, the Seminoles led the country in sacks behind 16 from Demarcus Walker.

Before Kelly’s time in Tallahassee, he spent seven seasons at Georgia Tech as an interim defensive coordinator, defensive backs coach, and special teams coordinator.

This season, Tennessee’s passing defense ranked eighth in the SEC and 60th nationally. The Vols allowed opponents to throw for 222.9 yards per game. Tennessee had nine interceptions as opposing quarterbacks completed 63 percent of their passes against the Volunteers’ secondary. The Vols did play against some of the top passing attacks in the country, however. Tennessee faced quarterbacks such as Will Grier, Tua Tagovailoa, Drew Lock, and Kyle Shurmur among others.

Kelly’s on-field coaching is one reason he’s a hot commodity, but his recruiting is what separates him from others.

Kelly is credited by 247Sports as being the primary recruiter for four-star 2020 quarterback commit Harrison Bailey, four-star 2019 safety signee Jaylen McCollough, three-star 2019 athlete signee Aaron Beasley, three-star 2018 defensive lineman signee John Mincey, and three-star 2018 safety signee Trevon Flowers. He’s also the secondary recruiter for four-star 2019 wide receiver signee Ramel Keyton, four-star 2019 safety commit Anthony Harris, and three-star 2019 defensive tackle commit LeDarrius Cox.

This past season with Tennessee, Kelly made $330,000 according to the USA Today Sports assistant coach salary database.

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