Chuck Smith departs coaching staff, replaced on staff by Peter Sirmon

Once again the Vols will not be making it through two consecutive seasons with out some type of coaching turnover. Earlier this year Bennie Wylie the head strength and conditioning coach departed for the University of Texas. He was promptly replaced by Ron McKeefery a week later. Yesterday Defensive Line Coach Chuck Smith and Head Coach Derek Dooley “mutually agreed” that Smith would leave the program to pursue other career goals. Who will replace Smith on staff?

Dooley has elected to shift Linebackers Coach Lance Thompson down to the defensive line position and replace Thompson with former Titans Linebacker Peter Sirmon, who was working with the team in a graduate assistant capacity. Sirmon, who played 7 seasons with the Titans from 2000-2006, was a former college teammate of Defensive Coordinator Justin Wilcox. Sirmon coached safeties last season while Secondary coach Terry Joseph focused on the corners.

Thompson is a proven recruiter and hopefully he can be successful in bringing in top level talent along the defensive line as well as mentor Sirmon who has never recruited before. As a graduate assistant Sirmon could only call recruits and visit with them on campus, but he has never managed a territory or been on the road to recruit. A learning curve is expected, as it was with Smith who was in the same circumstance upon his hiring.


Lance Thompson, who has coached linebackers during his two seasons with the Vols, will be shifting to the defensive line position. Thompson has experience coaching defensive lines at Georgia Tech and Alabama in the 90’s as well as being the defensive coordinator from 04-06 at Central Florida. Thompson is currently working out a contract extension with the Vols as he is entering his last year on contract.

“Lance’s extensive experience coaching defensive linemen combined with Peter’s work product over the past year makes these decisions seamless,” said Dooley. “Lance has experienced tremendous success as both a defensive coordinator and line coach, while Peter’s work ethic, professionalism, coaching ability, and success as a linebacker at both the collegiate and professional ranks precluded me from pursuing any other candidates.”


So why is Smith leaving? Dooley did not make this clear other than by calling it a “mutual decision” to pursue other opportunities. Something tells me this was more Dooley’s decision than Smith’s as Smith had made it clear during his year with the Vols that this was his dream job.

Rumors have been circulating message boards since mid-season, and have been confirmed by media members covering the Vols, that there has been chemistry issues with Smith and the rest of the staff, in particular Wilcox. Wilcox, if you remember was offered the defensive coordinator position at the University of Texas, however he elected to stay with the real UT. Could Smith’s departure be a concession Dooley made in order to keep Wilcox?


Remember Dooley and Smith are former high school teammates, and Smith is a former Vol. Vol fan’s loved having Smith on staff because of this, however the Defensive line was 7th in the SEC last season with only 26 sacks. Smith was a pass rush specialist with the Jets prior to his hiring with the Vols. The transition may have proved to be more difficult than imagined.

Whether the transition was to much to handle, Smith couldn’t get along with other coaches, he really does have better career options out there or a combination of those and other factors, Smith will be missed here due to his passion for this program. He knows the traditions and legacies. He knows the fan base and can sell that on the recruiting trail as first hand experience. Sirmon will develop that over time but Smith will be missed.

However Dooley made a desicion that his predecessor, coach Fulmer, could not easily do. The demise of Fulmer can largely be attributed to keeping staff members when they obviously should be let go. Now I am not saying that Smith deserved to go, but Dooley obviously decided it was in the best interest for his program, and I stand behind coach Dooley with my support.

Dooley, in my opinion, would not let a staff member go just to keep an unproven defensive coordinator. That could have been part of it but I doubt it was the entire reason. Chemistry is vital on a coaching staff and Dooley feels that with the decision made yesterday his staff has been improved.

“I am grateful for the personal investment, hard work, and passion that Chuck contributed to our program this past year,” said Dooley. “He is a dear friend to me, and more importantly, will always be a part of the Tennessee family.”

Tennessee Coaching Staff

Head Coach Derek Dooley

Offensive Coordinator and Running Backs

Jim Chaney

Defensive Coordinator

Justin Wilcox


Darin Hinshaw


Peter Sirmon

Offensive Line

Harry Hiestand

Defensive Line

Lance Thompson

Tight Ends and Special Teams

Eric Russell

Secondary and Recruiting

Terry Joseph

Wide Receivers and Assistant Head Coach

Charlie Baggett

Strength and Conditioning

Ron McKeefery




About Steven Harris

Steven Harris is a fifth year senior at the University of Tennessee. Majoring in sports journalism, this blog provides an outlet for Harris to share his thoughts on the state of the University of Tennessee's athletic department''s Volunteer teams. View all posts by Steven Harris

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