Following a month of rumors, speculation and actual coaching changes, Tennessee’s staff finally appears to be intact.
The Vols introduced former Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop during a press conference on Tuesday to replace former defensive coordinator John Jancek in what was formerly called a mutual parting. However, that didn’t appear to be the case when Tennessee coach Butch Jones addressed Jancek’s departure.
“Anytime you make a change, it’s very, very difficult,” Jones said. “Obviously, there are relationships that are built. Families are involved and I would tell you this, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do as a football coach.”
Jones and Jancek coached together at three different schools: Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Tennessee.
“Sometimes you have to step back and look at everything,” Jones said. “You have a personal side and a professional side. I’m very thankful for Coach Jancek. Coach Jancek has done a very good job for us. Love his family. Love John, but sometimes you have to step back and as a leader you’re forced to make very difficult decisions.
“I just felt that was in the best interest, but John’s a great football coach, a great football mind and I will help him anyway I can because I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and his family.”
Tennessee’s defense ranked No. 16 in the country with 20 points allowed per game. However, there were blown double-digit leads against Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas that derailed what could have been a much more successful season.
“There’s a lot of things that go into making that decision,” Jones said. “I don’t want to get into the specifics other than that’s the responsibility of the head football coach. A lot of times they say leadership is lonely and the only person you tell your fears and concerns are to your pillow.”
The Vols have had to replace two coaches following the regular season. Former tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Mark Elder left the program to become the head coach at Eastern Kentucky. He was replaced by Larry Scott, who was the interim head coach and run-game coordinator at Miami.
At least two other Tennessee coaches were linked to other schools. Receivers coach Zach Azzanni was reportedly considered as an offensive coordinator by Maryland. Defensive backs coach Willie Martinez was thought to be a possible candidate at Miami. Jones said he believes the shuffling is complete.
“As of right now, we’re good,” Jones said. “There should be no more changes.”
Jones added that graduate assistant Nick Sheridan would remain with the Vols in some capacity. He has been heavily involved with coaching quarterbacks.
“It’s been a crazy offseason,” Jones said. “There’s a price to be paid for success. Everyone wants to come after your coaches and I’ve always looked at that as a compliment. We’ve had a number of coaches that had opportunities elsewhere but they’ve elected to stay. … You try to create that chemistry where they want to be here.”
Shoop, who was pursued by many schools, has been widely lauded a strong replacement for Jancek.
“I feel very confident,” Jones said, “in telling you that we’ve added to the dynamics of our staff.”