Hoke, Jones finally getting to work together at Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee defensive line coach Brady Hoke has joined the staff of an old friend and is looking to bounce back from a disappointing season.
Hoke, the former Michigan head coach, is part of Butch Jones' staff overhaul. This opportunity represents a chance for the Volunteers to rejuvenate their defense and for Hoke to rebound after a frustrating one-year stint as Oregon's defensive coordinator.
''Butch had called me, and we talked a little bit about it,'' Hoke said Tuesday in his first media session since getting hired last month . ''Obviously things went south in Oregon, and being a defensive line coach for most of my career - even as a head coach I still coached part of the defensive line - it's been great.
''The relationship and trust factor that we have in each other that was built over many years, it's one reason it was attractive to come to Tennessee.''
Hoke said he has known Jones for over 15 years. When he was coaching Ball State about a decade ago, Hoke even tried to hire Jones, who was a Central Michigan assistant at the time.
They now will work together in trying to upgrade a Tennessee defense that allowed 449.2 yards per game last season to rank 95th nationally. Hoke was given a two-year deal worth $500,000 annually to replace Steve Stripling, who accepted a position as Tennessee's director of football development.
Hoke was 78-70 in 12 seasons as a head coach with Ball State (2003-08), San Diego State (2009-10) and Michigan (2011-14). Hoke led Michigan to an 11-2 record and Sugar Bowl title in 2011, but lately he's had a tough go of it.
Michigan fired him after going 5-7 in 2014. After spending 2015 away from football, Hoke returned last year as a defensive coordinator on Oregon coach Mark Helfrich's staff as the Ducks tried switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme.
Oregon didn't adapt well to the change. The Ducks allowed 518.4 yards and 41.4 points per game last season to rank 126th out of 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in both categories. Helfrich was fired after Oregon finished 4-8.
''Every situation's different,'' Hoke said. ''We had a great staff out there. Mark Helfrich, I have a ton of respect for (him) and the guys we coached with. A lot of it was the same thing that happened here a little bit with some injuries - a lot of injuries up front, especially in the inside interior defensive line.''
Hoke's task at Tennessee includes finding a way to replace defensive ends Derek Barnett and Corey Vereen, who combined for 20 sacks and 30 + tackles for loss last season. Barnett is a likely first-round draft pick who ended his three-year career as Tennessee's all-time sack leader.
Hoke would get a major boost if defensive tackles Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle can stay healthy after being limited to seven games each last season.
Although he said it's too early for him to evaluate Tennessee's linemen, Hoke knows what he wants to see from them. The Vols open spring practice March 21.
''You'd better be tough,'' Hoke said. ''Toughness is something that you have to have in this game. That's mental and physical toughness, and I think pride and ownership in who they are and who they represent, from their families and their name and from how they're going to represent each other out there on the field. That's really important, (and) obviously how quickly they can learn.''
Hoke joins wide receivers coach Kevin Beard, quarterbacks coach Mike Canales, defensive backs coach Charlton Warren and strength coach Rock Gullickson as newcomers on Jones' staff. The number of new faces increases to five if you include offensive line coach Walt Wells, who was an offensive quality control assistant for Tennessee last year.
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