Does Rodney Garner hire mean Vols will change course and retain Kevin Steele?

Rodney Garner
Rodney Garner /

After Jeremy Pruitt’s coaching staff went up in flames on Rocky Top, the dust eventually settled around former Auburn football defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. But just as quick as he was in, he was back out, and in his wake comes another former Auburn staffer in Rodney Garner.

Quickly after Jeremy Pruitt was fired, Kevin Steele was named Tennessee’s interim head coach. It was casually the second time in a month he found himself as acting head coach at a major university.

Eventually, with the hire of former UCF head coach Josh Heupel, it was assumed that Kevin Steele would not be retained on the defensive staff–possibly because Josh Heupel is interested in keeping his job.

Heupel has yet to hire a defensive coordinator for the Vols’ program, but he has hired a defensive line coach in Rodney Garner. He coached Auburn’s defensive line for eight seasons alongside Kevin Steele under Gus Malzahn but was not retained by new HC Bryan Harsin.

Garner has plenty of experience in the SEC after coaching at Auburn, Georgia, and Tennessee once before. An Alabama native, Garner attended Auburn University and played football from 1984-1988. His senior year he was named to the All-SEC team, and year Auburn won a conference title to cap it off.

With Heupel’s search for a defensive coordinator stretching so long, is it possible that he’ll settle for keeping Kevin Steele on the staff as a defensive assistant or even promote him to be defensive coordinator? After all, Steele wanted Garner at Tennessee when he was holding the reins.

Saturday Down South reported four days ago that Steele is still recruiting for Coach Heupel, and a UT 3-star target mentioned in the same article that he spoke with both Coach Heupel and Coach Steele.

At this point, especially after bringing Rodney Garner onto his staff, Kevin Steele might be the Vols’ best option. He and Garner are a great recruiting team, and they coached several defensive NFL prospects at Auburn over their eight seasons. He has proven himself against tough SEC opponents and beat Alabama multiple times.

It’s possible that in the coming weeks we could see a former Auburn football coaching duo turned into Volunteers.

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