Following the 2019 season, Jeremy Pruitt was forced to make several changes to his coaching staff. Some of these changes came as coaches left for NFL opportunities, while others departed for other college jobs. Some of the coaches that left the Tennessee staff were coaches that Pruitt would have liked to keep staff if possible, while others had expiring contracts, appearing that Tennessee let them move on to their next stop. It is unclear just which set of circumstances the departure of Tracy Rocker to South Carolina fell under. Rocker was an excellent on-field coach for Tennessee, developing the defensive line into one of the strengths of the defense. However, Rocker came to be viewed as a recruiting liability, an accusation that has arisen before in his career. The result saw Rocker's contract expire before he left for the Gamecocks. With Rocker's departure, Pruitt was in the market for a new defensive line coach, a position he quickly filled with Jimmy Brumbaugh.
Brumbaugh arrives in Knoxville with the kind of résumé that has come to be expected of most coaches Pruitt adds to his staff. The Gainesville, Florida native has deep SEC ties, beginning with his time as a player at Auburn. Brumbaugh was a Freshman All-SEC selection in 1995, as well as an All-SEC Selection for the Tigers in 1996 and 1997. Brumbaugh's playing career was stifled after an injury late in the 1997 season led to him only playing in three games in 1998. After his fifth-year senior season in 1999, more on-line with his first three seasons on the Plains, Brumbaugh played for the NFL's San Francisco 49ers. Stints in the XFL and Arena League preceded Brumbaugh retiring as a professional player and embarking on his coaching career.
Brumbaugh worked his way up through the coaching ranks, primarily serving as a defensive line coach for the last decade. Notably, Brumbaugh has served as the defensive line coach at Syracuse, East Mississippi Community College, Kentucky, Maryland, and Colorado before he was hired to join Tennessee's staff. Brumbaugh also served as the Co-Defensive Coordinator in his time with Maryland and Colorado. Brumbaugh brings an interesting combination of understanding the SEC thanks to his playing career at Auburn, his four years with Kentucky, and his time working at Colorado under longtime SEC assistant Mel Tucker. Brumbaugh has recruiting ties across the south thanks to his path through football, from being a Florida native to years coaching in Louisiana early in his career, a brief stop in Chattanooga, ties in Alabama after playing at Auburn, and further ties established while at Kentucky. Brumbaugh brings an on-field coach and recruiter that can help Tennessee while having the kind of coaching chops Pruitt looks for.
One of the most important things to know about Jimmy Brumbaugh is that he understands what it takes to be an elite SEC defensive lineman, as he was one himself. He has also logged significant time on staff and learning from some of the most highly regarded defensive minds in the country, all specifically tied to the south. Brumbaugh played, primarily, under then Auburn defensive coordinator Bill Oliver. Oliver coached for over thirty years, the majority of those either at Auburn or Alabama. Oliver became somewhat of an assistant coaching fixture on SEC sidelines, and used Brumbaugh to great effect with the Tigers.
As a coach himself, Brumbaugh was an assistant in the strength and conditioning program at LSU, where the Tigers won a National Title in the 2007 season. When Mark Stoops assembled his first staff at Kentucky in 2013, Brumbaugh was hired to his original staff. It was at Kentucky that Brumbaugh proved he could develop talent to the NFL and recruit against traditional SEC powers. Brumbaugh helped to recruit and develop several Wildcats that went on to have NFL careers, most notably among them Josh Allen. At Kentucky, Brumbaugh was able to be a part of Mark Stoops working to take the Wildcats from 2-10 to a team that is able to compete in the SEC. That transformation was built on the strength of the Kentucky defense, which Brumbaugh's defensive front was key to. The time in Lexington allowed Brumbaugh to prove that he belonged on an SEC sideline on game days, as well as in living rooms for recruiting battles. He earned his SEC coaching chops developing quality players and learning from one of the most respected defensive minds in college football in Stoops. Brumbaugh left the Wildcats for Maryland when offered the chance to become a co-defensive coordinator. In 2019, Brumbaugh left the Terrapins to join another great defensive mind in Colorado. In 2019, Brumbaugh came to Boulder to serve as the defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator for Mel Tucker. Under Tucker, Brumbaugh was working to help implement a 3-4 defense in which his line would set the tone. Tucker wanted to bring an SEC feel to his defense in the PAC 12, and Brumbaugh was key in achieving that. Working under Tucker also allowed Brumbaugh to work closely with another greatly respected defensive coach with extensive ties to the south. At all of his stops, Brumbaugh has had success with his units, has been able to recruit well, and has served in helping to build quality defensive line groups. Exactly the kind of history Pruitt has looked for.
Arriving at Tennessee, Brumbaugh will immediately be presented with two distinct challenges that will define his success in Knoxville. First, Brumbaugh inherits a group that is laden with seniors like Aubrey Solomon, Emmit Gooden, Darrel Middleton, and Savion Williams. Brumbaugh will need to get the most out of these seniors for Tennessee to achieve what they want this season. The Vols finished with a Top 25 defensive unit in 2019, and much of that success was built on the way the defensive line improved throughout the season. If the Vols wish to continue improving on the defensive side of the ball in 2020, their defensive line will need to play at a high level from start to finish in the season, meaning Brumbaugh will need to hit the ground running. How much Brumbaugh can get out of his seniors, and how quickly they acclimate to him, will be a key for the Volunteer defense in 2020. Beyond his group of seniors, Brumbaugh will also inherit players like Greg Emerson, Omari Thomas, Dominic Bailey, and Elijah Simmons, to name a few. While Emerson played extensively in 2019, looking like a potential rising star for the Vols, the others are new arrivals or spent 2019 as a redshirt. How Brumbaugh is able to teach and develop these talented newcomers will impact 2020, but also the future for Tennessee. These are some of the highest-rated players in Tennessee's 2020 signing class. Their development is key for the future of the Volunteer defense, and Brumbaugh's ability to develop and prepare young talent will be an area to watch closely when practices resume.
The second task that will be set before Brumbaugh is to get on the recruiting trail and replace all the seniors his group will lose at season's end. The defensive line is one of, perhaps the, biggest priority for Tennessee on the recruiting trail in the 2021 cycle. It is also no secret that Brumbaugh's predecessor is working in Columbia rather than Knoxville now in no small part due to his shortcomings on the recruiting trail. Much like he is being asked to get the most out of his defensive line group early on the field, Brumbaugh will be thrown into multiple, intense recruiting battles right out of the gate. While unlikely he wins them all, it is critical for Brumbaugh and Tennessee as a whole in the 2021 seasons and beyond that Brumbaugh is successful in helping to land quality defensive linemen to bring to Knoxville. Some will be depth players, but others will need to be prepared to play early.
Jimmy Brumbaugh has shown success on the field in the SEC. He was worked with multiple, excellent defensive coaches, and now is working under Jeremy Pruitt and with Derrick Ansley. At Tennessee, Brumbaugh won't be asked to rebuild a unit from the ground up. He will have a talented and experienced group to work with for 2020, however, his effectiveness on the recruiting trail will be critical in Tennessee avoiding a rebuild upfront. If he can win battles on the trail, the Vols will be able to reach the recruiting level Pruitt wants, where Tennessee is able to bring in the next wave of talented players to replace departing seniors. Brumbaugh finds himself very much in a, “Prove It,” type scenario in his first season in Knoxville. History shows that he has the experience and track record to do just that, and should he prove up to the task, the Volunteer defense should take steps forward in 2020 and 2021.