Vols' Jones nearing completion of his first staff

Associated Press • Dec 13, 2012 at 5:15 AM

KNOXVILLE — Butch Jones’ first staff at Tennessee will have a distinct Cincinnati flavor.

Jones announced his entire staff Thursday aside from the wide receivers coach, a position that remains vacant. The staff features six people who worked with Jones at Cincinnati this season.

Former Cincinnati colleagues joining Jones at Tennessee include offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian, defensive coordinator/linebackers coach John Jancek, offensive line coach Don Mahoney, tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Mark Elder, defensive line coach/assistant head coach Steve Stripling and strength coach Dave Lawson.

Stripling is Cincinnati’s interim head coach for the Dec. 27 Belk Bowl against Duke at Charlotte, N.C.

“Our staff is comprised of teachers and mentors from all levels of football that have been successful and know what it takes to win championships.” Jones said in a statement released by the university. “I have done my due diligence to compose what I feel is one of the best coaching staffs in the country, and I know everyone associated with Tennessee football will be proud of this staff. I know each of them is looking forward to representing the orange and being a part of Tennessee football.”

Jones, who took over as Tennessee’s coach Friday, still must hire a wide receivers coach. Tee Martin, the quarterback of Tennessee’s 1998 national championship team, announced Tuesday he had turned down an offer to join the Vols’ staff and instead would remain the wide receivers coach at Southern California.

The lone holdover from former coach Derek Dooley’s staff thus far is running backs coach Jay Graham. Tennessee averaged 160.3 yards rushing per game and 4.7 yards per carry this season in Graham’s first year as running backs coach after gaining just 90.1 yards rushing per game and 2.8 yards per carry in 2011.

Jones’ staff also includes cornerbacks coach Tommy Thigpen and safeties coach Willie Martinez, who both worked at Auburn this season. New Auburn coach Gus Malzahn let go of all the Tigers’ assistants after replacing Gene Chizik, who was fired on Nov. 25.

Martinez worked at Georgia from 2001-09 and served as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator from 2005-09. The only former Cincinnati assistant on Jones’ staff with any SEC experience is Jancek, who was at Georgia from 2005-09. Jancek went from Georgia to Cincinnati, where he worked on Jones’ staff for the last three years.

Bajakian worked for Jones at both Central Michigan (2007-09) and Cincinnati (2010-12). Before joining Jones, Bajakian worked as the Chicago Bears’ offensive quality control and wide receivers coach from 2004-06.

Elder, Mahoney, Stripling and Lawson also worked for Jones at both Central Michigan and Cincinnati.

Mahoney joined Jones at Central Michigan in 2007 after coaching Tulane’s offensive line from 1999-2006.

Elder will be coaching his third different position in as many years. He worked with Cincinnati’s running backs in 2011 and coached safeties and special teams this season. He previously coached tight ends at Cincinnati in 2010.

Stripling worked as a defensive line coach at Indiana, Louisville, Michigan State and Michigan before heading to Central Michigan in 2009 and following Jones to Cincinnati in 2010. Stripling, who has more than 30 years of coaching experience, worked as Indiana’s defensive coordinator in 1996.

“We have been able to assemble a championship staff,” Jones said. “When you look at the experience of these coaches over their careers, there is a great amount of continuity and familiarity.”

Jones agreed Friday to a six-year contract worth $18.2 million to take over Tennessee’s program from Dooley, who was fired Nov. 18 after going 15-21 in three seasons. Jones went 27-13 at Central Michigan from 2007-09 and was 23-14 at Cincinnati the last three years.

Two of Dooley’s former assistants already have found work elsewhere. Former Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and offensive line coach Sam Pittman will fill the same positions next season at Arkansas on new coach Bret Bielema’s staff.

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