Tennessee reportedly hires longtime SEC defensive assistant

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    Photo by Wade Rackley/Auburn Athletics

    Tennessee has finally hired a defensive assistant, as according to a report from Pete Thamel, Josh Heupel has hired longtime SEC assistant Rodney Garner to be his defensive line coach.

    The addition of Garner comes after Heupel reportedly completed his offensive staff earlier in the afternoon by hiring Rice offensive coordinator Jerry Mack to be Tennessee’s new running backs coach.

    Mack rounds out the offensive staff to go along with Joey Halzle (QB coach), Kodi Burns (WR coach), Alex Golesh (TE coach) and Glenn Elarbee (offensive line coach). Golesh will reportedly serve as co-offensive coordinator as well, while Heupel will call plays. Halzle, Burns, Golesh and Elarbee all followed Heupel to Tennessee from UCF.

    Garner is the first addition to Heupel’s defensive staff as he has yet to hire a defensive coordinator. He 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, where he has spent his entire 31-year coaching career.

    Garner recently served at his alma mater as associate head coach and defensive line coach, a position he held since 2013. He helped develop Jeff Holland, Montravius Adams, Carl Lawson, Dee Ford, Angelo Blackson, Gabe Wright and DaVonte Lambert into NFL players during his second stint on the Plains.

    A native of Leeds, Ala., Garner was named all-SEC and honorable mention All-America as a senior at Auburn in 1988, captaining the team that captured the SEC title. Garner served on the Auburn coaching staff from 1990-95 as recruiting coordinator, tight ends coach, and assistant strength and conditioning coach.

    During his 15 seasons at Georgia, he was part of a staff that led UGA to 117 victories, two SEC Championships, five SEC Eastern Division titles, seven bowl victories and six Top 10 finishes in the final polls, including No. 2 in 2007 and No. 3 in 2002. He added the title of assistant head coach at Georgia in 2005 after serving as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator there since January, 1998.

    At Georgia, he coached five NFL first round draft choices — Richard Seymour, Marcus Stroud, David Pollack, Charles Grant and Johnathan Sullivan. He also coached draft picks DeAngelo Tyson, Geno Atkins, Corvey Irvin, Jarius Wynn, Kedric Golston, Robert Geathers, and Emarlos Leroy.

    After his playing career at Auburn, Garner had a free agent tryout with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played with the Pittsburgh Gladiators arena football team in 1989. He began his coaching career at Auburn in 1990. Garner coached tight ends and offensive tackles at Tennessee in 1997 after coaching tight ends for the Volunteers in 1996.

    Garner is the cousin of basketball great Charles Barkley.