KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee coach Butch Jones hasn’t hired a quarterbacks coach quite yet and had at least one more candidate to interview as of Thursday, according to a source with knowledge of the Vols’ coaching search.
Jones is leaning toward promoting Larry Scott to the offensive coordinator position (SECcountry.com first reported Scott the leading in-house candidate) while Mike Canales has long been rumored the frontrunner for the quarterback coaching position.
Jones would not elaborate on the positions on Thursday, saying only in a brief exchange with SEC Country that the process was not complete (despite Wednesday’s published reports), and that he was doing his “due diligence.”
Canales has a 30-year coaching career that includes coaching current San Diego Chargers QB Phillip Rivers at North Carolina State in 2001 and 2002, and prior to that serving as South Florida’s QB coach and offensive coordinator from 1996-2000.
Those years with the Bulls are relevant to Canales’ candidacy and potential fit on Jones’ staff.
Scott played offensive tackle for South Florida from 1996-1999 under Canales’ leadership.
That prior relationship would lend itself to immediate continuity in the offensive meeting room, something Jones makes a priority.
Jones, meanwhile, got to know of Canales through his time working as receivers coach at West Virginia in 2005 and 2006 under offensive coordinator Calvin Magee.
Magee broke into the collegiate coaching ranks as an assistant at South Florida working under Canales, and that association led Jones to know Canales, as the teams would visit one another in the offseason. The networking has continued for years — which is not uncommon in the coaching ranks.
Canalas is currently the assistant head coach, tight ends coach and running backs coach at Utah State, his alma mater.
“Mike has a wealth of experience as both a coordinator and quarterbacks coach” Aggies coach Matt Wells said after hiring Canalas last March. “I know our players and staff will benefit from his experiences and knowledge.”
Canalas was quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at North Texas from 2005-2010, and was twice the interim head coach for the program.
Jones has said repeatedly that there is no timeline for the hires taking place on the Tennessee football staff, and that he would be very thorough.
At least 10 candidates have been interviewed for the current offensive vacancies, according to the source.
The Vols set a single-season record for points and touchdowns, so there are obviously no plans to overhaul the offense or change what has proven to be a successful scheme.
Jones, however, has made it clear he will not stand pat after a 9-4 season, and he has raised expectations to a championship level in the four years he has been at Tennessee since taking over a program that had won two of its previous 16 SEC games.
The Vols fired cornerbacks coach Willie Martinez and replaced him with Charlton Warren earlier this week, and former NFL strength coach Rock Gullickson joined the staff last week.