REPORT: Steele seeking to fill coaching vacancies on Vols’ staff

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    (Photo by Wade Rackley/Auburn Athletics)

    Tennessee interim head coach Kevin Steele is expected to be allowed to make on-field hires and fill vacancies on UT’s coaching staff, John Brice of reported on Wednesday afternoon.

    The Vols have not yet given Steele the authority to do so, but the former Auburn defensive coordinator is anticipating being allowed to make changes. Brice reported that Steele “is moving to reunite” with defensive line coach Rodney Garner, who along with Steele, was not retained at Auburn.

    Former Tennessee linebacker Kevin Simon is expected to be promoted from an off-the-field role to linebackers coach in the wake of outside linebackers coach Shelton Felton and inside linebackers coach Brian Niedermeyer were fire with cause on Monday.

    If Garner reunites with Steele on Rocky Top, the only position on staff that would be open would be along the offensive line following Will Friend’s departure to Auburn. Tennessee could soon need a wide receivers coach, defensive coordinator, and defensive backs coach, however, as Tee Martin’s contract is not expected to be renewed at the end of the month, and Derrick Ansley is receiving interest from other schools, respectively.

    Garner was a standout defensive lineman at Auburn and has gone on to be one of the most well-respected defensive line coaches in the SEC. In addition to working on the Plains, he’s also spent time at Tennessee and Georgia, as he coached five NFL first round draft choices — Richard Seymour, Marcus Stroud, David Pollack, Charles Grant and Johnathan Sullivan.

    The cousin of Charles Barkley spent 17 years at Georgia before returning home to Auburn in 2013 to serve his alma mater as associate head coach and defensive line coach. Garner helped the Tigers to the 2013 SEC Championship and a BCS Championship berth.

    Simon, on the other hand, returned to his alma mater in February of 2018 after a successful stint as an NFL Pro Scout to serve as a Player Development Assistant.

    The California native was a scout with the Atlanta Falcons from 2016-2018, which included a 2016 NFC Championship and trip to Super Bowl LI. Simon was also a part of the Dallas Cowboys staff as a college scout from 2009-2016. He was primarily responsible for scouting schools in the Midwest.

    Simon started his coaching career at Tennessee working with the linebackers as a graduate assistant from 2007-08 under alongside former head coach Phillip Fulmer and defensive coordinator John Chavis. He was a two-time All-SEC selection with the Vols from 2001-2005 before being drafted by the Washington Redskins in the seventh round of the 2006 NFL Draft.