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Tennessee football hits home run with first defensive hire in Rodney Garner

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There’s been a lot of talk about Josh Heupel’s inability to find a defensive coordinator for Tennessee football. That may be an issue in the coming days. However, after rounding out his offensive staff, Heupel hit it big with his first defensive hire.

Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports reported Wednesday evening that Auburn Tigers defensive line coach Rodney Garner was joining the Vols in the same role. Garner is a longtime respected SEC assistant. An Auburn graduate in 1988, he has been a member of Gus Malzahn’s staff since 2013.


Before joining Auburn, Garner was with the Georgia Bulldogs from 1998 to 2012. That was his second stint with Auburn, though, as he had been with the Tigers from 1990 to 1995 as well. This is also his second stint with Tennessee football, where he was in 1996 and 1997. Thamel revealed the news of his return on Twitter. Given his history, Garner is a superstar hire and in particular a superstar recruiter. When he arrived on Rocky Top, he played a key role in helping to secure some of the elite recruits in 1996 and 1997 that were the foundation for the 1998 national championship team.

In fact, former Auburn head coach Terry Bowden was quoted in The Orlando Sentinel back in 2002 as saying that he thinks Garner is the reason specifically for Tee Martin going to the Vols. Martin, from Mobile, Ala., obviously had every reason to go to Auburn given his friends and family at the time, so that was a big deal.

Every top 10 year Phillip Fulmer ever had on Rocky Top was either with a Heisman candidate at quarterback and David Cutcliffe coaching them or a team that had players recruited by Garner. By the way, when Tennessee football beat Auburn in the 1997 SEC Championship game, they beat an Auburn team that got there on the backs of Garner recruits.

Garner’s early recruiting at Georgia allowed Mark Richt to make a splash his first few years there, winning two SEC Championships in 2002 and 2005. He also went from being at UGA in 2012, where they were one play away from the national championship, to being at Auburn in 2013, where they were also one play away from a national championship.

Simply put, very few people bring the profile as a position coach that Garner brings. He is an elite recruiter, has a great track record and has also worked under some elite coaches, from Pat Dye to Bowden to Fulmer to Richt to Malzahn. Of course, he worked under Jim Donnan too.

This move isn’t too surprising either. Brian Stultz of AuburnWire reported back in January that interim Vols head coach Kevin Steele was considering adding Garner to the UT staff. Heupel made a great decision to keep him around.


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There's been a lot of talk about Josh Heupel's inability to find a defensive coordinator for Tennessee football. That may be an issue in the coming days. H...


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I dont know much about this particular coach, but his resume shows moderate success, and by moderate success I mean much more better than the Vol's sub par performance in recent seasons. Plus he has SEC experience. Not that my 2 cents matters at all, but Im ok with this hire. 

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