KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — While Tennessee continues to search for its next offensive coordinator, Vols head coach Butch Jones made sure to acknowledge the contributions by outgoing veteran coordinator Mike DeBord earlier in the week.
DeBord, who accepted the same position at Indiana on Tuesday, coordinated an offense that finished second in the SEC in scoring (36.4 points per game) in 2016. Although oftentimes maligned for his playcalling, DeBord oversaw an attack that scored a school-record 63 total touchdowns despite a turnstile offensive line and attrition at the tailback position.
“We were very fortunate as a football program to have Mike DeBord a part of it, and you won’t meet a better person,” Jones said.
“I’m excited for him, because I know his family very, very well, and I know how much importance his family is to him. There’s a lot of things that go into making this decision.”
DeBord was born in Muncie, Ind., and was inducted to the state’s Hall of Fame in 1995. Most believed the 60-year-old coach was set to return home and retire after Tennessee’s 38-24 win over Nebraska in the Music City Bowl.
Instead, a unique opportunity came about when the Hoosiers fired Kevin Johns on Monday, and DeBord jumped at the opening.
“We talk every day. Every day. This has been something we’ve been talking about for a few weeks now,” Jones said.
“It’s something I know that has really weighed in on him, just from a distance and things that are going on with his family and being part of his grandchildren. So I’m excited. I’m forever grateful for him for everything he brought to our football family.”
Two years ago, Jones hired DeBord to replace Mike Bajakian, who left Tennessee for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The decision to bring DeBord out of pseudo-retirement in 2014 was met with real skepticism, but Jones turned to his longtime mentor as a way to maintain stability on the staff.
The two worked hand-in-hand with the offense, producing a quality attack the last two seasons. The Vols finished third in the SEC in scoring in 2015, and averaged close to 450 yards of offense in 2016, scoring at least 34 points the last five games of the season.
“I think he made a difference with our players,” Jones said.
“We always talk about players leaving a program, do they leave it better off for being a part of it? Well, Mike DeBord has made Tennessee football much better.”
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