Both managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and staff writer Ben McKee contributed to this article
Following the news that Director of Player Personnel Drew Hughes is leaving Tennessee for South Carolina, another Vol coach is reportedly leaving Knoxville for Columbia.
According to 247Sports, Tennessee defensive line coach Tracy Rocker is leaving UT to take a role on South Carolina’s staff. Rocker’s two-year contract at Tennessee expired on January 31st.
Rocker parts with Tennessee following two years in Knoxville where UT’s defensive line mightily improved over the course of each season. In 2018, Rocker helped the Vols’ defensive line become one of the most improved units on the team. The Vols jumped up 74 spots in run defense with opponents rushing for nearly 100 yards less than in 2017. Tennessee’s defense also improved 45 spots nationally in third-down defense with opponents converting just 39 percent of their third downs compared to 45 percent in 2017.
Tennessee also saw an uptick in sacks, tackles for loss, and quarterback hurries. Kyle Phillips had his best season as a Vol under Rocker as a senior, finishing second on the team in tackles for loss (8.0), second in sacks (5.0), and fourth in total tackles (56).
This past season, Rocker took a group of defensive linemen who had never started at the FBS level and helped mold them into a cohesive unit by season’s end. The Vols were dealt a big blow in fall camp when projected starter Emmit Gooden suffered a season-ending injury before the season even began. But after a slow start, Tennessee’s defensive line performed well throughout the season.
The Vols’ defense ranked 23rd nationally and sixth in the SEC in yards allowed per game in 2019. Tennessee again upped their sack totals and tackles for loss totals in 2019, and the Vols gave up just 140.5 yards per game on the ground in 2019, their lowest average since 2009.
As a recruiter, Rocker was credited with landing four-star defensive lineman Dominic Bailey in Tennessee’s 2020 class. He was also listed as the secondary recruiter for four-stars Tyler Baron, Omari Thomas, and Jimmy Calloway along with three-star defensive lineman Reginald Perry.
Prior to Tennessee, Rocker spent time at Cincinnati, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Auburn and Georgia. As a player, Rocker was a two-time All American at Auburn and was the 1988 Outland Trophy and Lombardi Trophy winner. He was named SEC Player of the Year following his senior season in 1988.
This past year at Tennessee, Rocker made $505,000 in his final year under his two-year contract.