🏈 Tennessee's coaching vacancies

The importance of the next two hires

Hello. This is the Josh and Swain Newsletter, a quick roundup of the week’s top stories and topics involving Tennessee and the sports world.

Here’s what we have for you today:

  • Why Josh Heupel needs to get his next two coaching hires right

  • Two players who will play key roles for Tennessee’s basketball team

  • Tony Vitello and the Baseball Vols are back

  • Grab your sticks… EA Sports is letting you back in the game

HEUPEL’S NEXT BIG HIRE(S)

Josh Heupel is in a new position since he took over as Tennessee’s head football coach.

He has multiple positions to fill on his coaching staff.

Running backs coach Jerry Mack left to join the Jacksonville Jaguars at the beginning of the week.

That news wasn’t surprising — the move had been expected for several days.

And really, we shouldn’t be surprised any time a college coach leaves for the NFL.

With the madness of college football’s roster management, a lot of coaches have looked to get out if possible.

On Thursday, linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary left Tennessee to join Michigan’s staff.

This news wasn’t a shock considering word had leaked out that Michigan was making a push for Jean-Mary.

But this is the first time Heupel has lost a coach on his staff for basically a lateral position at another college.

The previous coaches to leave Tennessee under Heupel:

◼️ WR coach Kodi Burns left for the New Orleans Saints following the 2021 season
◼️ Offensive coordinator Alex Golesh became the head coach at South Florida last year

So what happened with Jean-Mary?

A number of things.

One, he previously coached at Michigan in 2020 — and was on staff with Sherrone Moore, who last month replaced Jim Harbaugh as Michigan’s head coach.

Jean-Mary also has the chance to work with new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, one of the most respected defensive coaches in football.

Michigan offered another opportunity that Tennessee couldn’t (or wouldn’t) match: a three-year contract.

To this point, Tennessee has only offered three-year contracts to coordinators; other assistant coaches have received two-year deals.

Was that an issue here?

If so, it’s something Tennessee might want to address. And soon.

Meanwhile, Heupel has two important hires to make. (And defensive coordinator Tim Banks will have a huge say in the defensive hire.)

Jayson Swain explained on this week’s show the importance of finding a running backs coach that’s hungry and looking to grow in the profession.

The Vols need someone who can both develop talent at the position and work hard in recruiting.

The same came be said for Jean-Mary’s replacement.

The good news is Tennessee has plenty to offer with its vacancies.

The Vols have a big budget and the football program is healthy.

That should attract quality coaches.

And it’s important for Tennessee to hire the right coaches, especially on defense.

“If you’re Tim Banks and you’re Josh Heupel,” Swain said, “you’ve got to … nail the next hire. Because if you don’t, in Year Four, and the linebackers — if they are a weakness and (Tennessee is) losing games — it’s not going to be pretty. At all.”

We opened Thursday’s show discussing the news of Jean-Mary creating a second coaching vacancy on UT’s staff.

Watch the full segment below or listen anywhere you get your podcasts. ⬇️⬇️

BASKETBALL’S STRETCH RUN

Jonas Aidoo dunks = Tennessee success

Tennessee made easy work of Arkansas on Wednesday night.

The Vols beat the Razorbacks 92-63 despite Tennessee shooting worse than 30 percent from three.

Big scoring nights from Jonas Aidoo and Jordan Gainey made the difference.

And those guys will play huge roles in what happens for Tennessee moving forward.

Aidoo is Tennessee’s top big man and has a skillset that changes the dynamic of UT’s offense.

Gainey’s shot-making ability makes him an important player off the bench.

If Aidoo and Gainey are BOTH on in the same game, good luck to the opposing defense.

Tennessee’s team is in take-care-of-business mode.

Next up for the Vols: Vanderbilt on Saturday.

📍 Thompson-Boling Arena at Food City Center
📅 Saturday, Feb. 17
6:00 p.m. ET
📺 SEC Network
📻 99.1 The Sports Animal/WIVK

Following Saturday’s game, which Tennessee should win without much trouble, the Vols will travel to Missouri (0-11 in SEC play) on Tuesday and then host Texas A&M on Feb. 24.

And then it’s on.

Tennessee will finish the regular season with games against Auburn (home), Alabama (away), South Carolina (away) and Kentucky (home).

Can Tennessee earn the first No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in school history?

Those last four games will go a long way in answering the question.

Tennessee has had its ups and downs — but so has pretty much every team in the sport.

Tennessee at its best is tough for any team in the country to beat.

“They’re a pretty damn good basketball team,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said on Wednesday.

Will the Vols be at their best in March?

We won’t get that answer until… March.

So try to enjoy the ride until then.

Even if you experience some bumps along the way.

SPORTS NUGGETS

🏈 VFL Trey Smith spoke to “Good Morning America” about the tragic shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade.

🏈 Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports is a believer in Nico Iamaleava’s future as Tennessee’s quarterback.

🏈 Tennessee announced plans for the Orange & White Game on April 13 — with capacity limited to approximately 10,000 fans due to construction at Neyland Stadium.

🏈 Georgia State’s Shawn Elliott is the latest college head coach to voluntarily leave for an assistant coaching position.

🏈 It looks like a 9-game SEC football schedule is becoming real — with the likely change coming in 2025.

⚖️ Why Tennessee and Josh Heupel shouldn’t sweat the NCAA case (and I don’t think they are).

🏀 Look at where Caitlyn Clark shot the ball from to become the leading scorer in NCAA women’s basketball history.

MLB players are NOT happy with the changes made to uniforms for the 2024 season.

🏌️ Tiger Woods discussed his first round at the Genesis Invitational. He shot a 72 but also dealt with back spasms toward the end of the round.

❤️ Amazing story of 10-year-old Harper Harrell, who used her own cancer battle to start a nonprofit organization and raise more than $27,000 for cancer research.

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WELCOME BACK, BASEBALL

It’s baseball time in Tennessee.

Well, technically in Texas.

That’s where Tony Vitello’s team will open the season when Tennessee plays against Texas Tech in the Shriners Children’s College Showdown in Arlington on Friday.

The Vols will play Oklahoma on Saturday and Baylor on Sunday.

📺 FloBaseball will broadcast the games (Subscription required)

Tennessee enters the season ranked in the top-10 in several polls and as high as No. 5.

Tennessee’s lineup will feature returning starters like Blake Burke and Christian Moore to go with several key newcomers, such as Billy Amick and Cannon Peebles, that will make the Vols tough to get out.

Sophomore pitcher AJ Russell will start on Friday with junior Drew Beam set to take the mound on Saturday.

Tennessee will have high expectations again after last year’s run to the College World Series.

And that’s how Vitello wants it, especially with the way he has recruited talent to Tennessee.

How good can the Vols be this season?

“They can legitimately be the best team in the country,” Allan Bell of Driving The Line told us on Thursday.

Just like we say during the college basketball season: there is a LONG WAY to go in college baseball, too.

D1Baseball, which ranks Tennessee No. 9 in the country, has FIVE teams from the SEC ranked ahead of the Vols and eight SEC teams total in the Top 25.

The competition will be intense once again.

That should also provide plenty of entertainment for Tennessee fans.

The basketball team’s run will be the main focus in the short term — and the football conversation never goes away.

But make sure to leave some room for baseball.

This team should be worth your time.

‘YEAH, IT’S REALLY HAPPENING’

Which edition was your favorite?

The caption from EA Sports was music to the ears of college football gamers.

The popular college football video game has been gone for more than a decade.

The return has been anticipated for a while… but on Thursday, it felt official.

That’s because EA Sports dropped a trailer to tease the game, which will be released this summer.

One question we received on Thursday’s show: who should be on the cover?

Nick Saban has been a popular choice. But should a coach who’s departing the real-life game get the video game’s cover?

We suggested a great player — or collection of players — from the last decade.

A way to recognize players who stood out during the game’s hiatus.

No matter the cover choice, the wait for the game’s return is almost over.

Enjoy the trailer below.

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