New Vols offensive coach doesn’t expect rust to be an issue
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike DeBord doesn’t expect any rust factor as he returns to coaching from a two-year layoff.
DeBord, 59, spoke to the media Friday for the first time since being hired last week to join Butch Jones’ staff in a reunion of sorts. Jones had worked on DeBord’s Central Michigan staff from 2000-03 and spent the last three of those seasons as offensive coordinator.
Although DeBord has three decades of coaching experience both in college and the NFL, he worked as a Michigan athletic administrator the last two years. DeBord spent five years as an NFL assistant before that, so he hasn’t worked as a college coach since 2007.
DeBord said he stayed close to the game the last two seasons by attending every Michigan practice, sitting in on meetings, watching numerous games and having regular conversations with former NFL coach Mike Martz. DeBord and Martz worked together as Chicago Bears assistants in 2010-11.
“I’ve gained knowledge these last two years,” said DeBord, the offensive coordinator of Michigan’s 1997 national championship team. “My battery, as the players have seen, is fully charged. There’s no rust. It goes back to like what Butch said. It’s like riding a bike. You get back on and you start pedaling. Right now, I’m pedaling pretty fast.”
DeBord’s arrival likely won’t cause many changes in the up-tempo offense that Jones prefers.
“Our offense does not need to be rebuilt,” Jones said. “It needs to be enhanced.”
DeBord said Tennessee’s offense has some similarities to the system he and Jones utilized at Central Michigan.
“What will change is that we are going to be a one-back spread offense,” DeBord said. “There (at Central Michigan), we used two-back and one-back. We are going to take everything we have done here that they have had success with and continue to move on with that. There will be little wrinkles that we add with my NFL experience that we add to the throw game and maybe our run here and there.”
DeBord replaces Mike Bajakian, who left Tennessee to become the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterbacks coach. Jones said DeBord’s familiarity with the staff and knowledge of the game helped make him an ideal fit.
Tennessee defensive coordinator John Jancek and defensive backs coach Willie Martinez worked with Jones on DeBord’s Central Michigan staff. DeBord and Tennessee defensive line coach Steve Stripling worked together as assistants at Michigan from 2005-07.
“Everything in life is about trust,” Jones said. “Everything in life is about character. I wanted an individual that I knew who I could trust.”
Tennessee ranked 10th out of 14 Southeastern Conference teams in points per game (28.9) and 11th in yards per game (370.5) this past season, but the offense fared much better after Joshua Dobbs took over as the Volunteers’ starting quarterback.
Dobbs is back in 2015 to lead a more experienced offense. Tackle Jacob Gilliam was the only senior offensive starter from Tennessee’s 45-28 TaxSlayer Bowl victory over Iowa.
“I think I’m the happiest I have ever been,” DeBord said. “I’m truly excited. I get to do what my passion is, and that is to be a football coach at the college level and to be a coordinator.”
NOTES: Jones said defensive end Derek Barnett, wide receiver Jason Croom, linebacker Darrin Kirkland, defensive tackle Danny O’Brien, defensive end Kyle Phillips would miss spring practice due to injuries. Jones said tight end Alex Ellis also could miss spring practice. All are expected back for the start of preseason practices in August. Barnett, who had 10 sacks and 20 ½ tackles for loss as a freshman this past season, is dealing with a shoulder injury.