March 8, 2012

Vols poised to tab Joseph's replacement

The quest to once again fill a vacancy on the Tennessee coaching staff will not stretch beyond one week, multiple sources have told VolQuest.com.

After Terry Joseph confirmed last Thursday he had been offered a position at Nebraska and then accepted a job with the Cornhuskers on Friday, Dooley --- and defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri --- appear poised to add Josh Conklin to the Vols' coaching staff.

Having spent the previous two seasons as defensive coordinator and safeties coach for The Citadel, a Football Championship Subdivision program, Conklin should be named within 24 hours as the seventh new coach on the Tennessee staff since December. A former assistant coach at both South Dakota State and Wofford prior to his work with The Citadel, Conklin already has an active email account and is listed as a member of the University of Tennessee's football department in its online directory.

Multiple sources also told VolQuest.com that Dooley, Sunseri and the Tennessee program prior to targeting Conklin had reached out to both Georgia Tech's Charles Kelly and South Carolina's Grady Brown but both coaches chose to remain in their current programs. Brown was hired only a month ago by the Gamecocks, and he had played under Sunseri at Alabama A&M in the late 1990s. Sunseri served two seasons as Alabama A&M defensive coordinator from 1998-99.

Tennessee also, sources said, talked to perhaps two other candidates to complement Derrick Ansley in coaching the Vols' defensive backs before it zeroed in on Conklin, who was a two-year starter and Academic All-American at Dakota State University in the early 2000s.

Conklin doesn't appear to be the only new help in the Volunteers' football offices. Former Hutchinson Community College defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Brandon Staley will also have an undisclosed role in the Tennessee football program. Like Conklin, Staley has an active email address in the Tennessee system and is listed as a member of the Vols' football department. Staley also was formerly an assistant coach at Northern Illinois, when the Huskies were defeated by Dooley's Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in the Independence Bowl. Staley also coached against the Vols in Neyland Stadium in 2008 when Northern Illinois lost to 13-9 to a Nick Stephens-led Vol offense.

Staley would be only Tennessee's second-most anticipated arrival from the Kansas junior college. The Vols last month signed Hutchinson Junior College All-American wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, arguably the No. 1 JuCo player in the nation.

Dooley needed to move swiftly in replacing his long-time assistant and friend Joseph, who had spent all five years of Dooley's head coaching career as one of his assistants. Tennessee is in the midst of its winter conditioning program and is set to open spring practice two weeks from Monday on March 26.

The Vols will have just two on-field assistant coaches from last season --- offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and Rivals.com-lauded recruiter and wide receivers coach Darin Hinshaw --- when camp opens. Tennessee also retained esteemed strength and conditioning coach Ron McKeefery.

Since Tennessee's season-ending loss at Kentucky, assistants Charlie Baggett, Eric Russell, Harry Hiestand, Peter Sirmon, Justin Wilcox, Lance Thompson and Joseph all left for other jobs, were encouraged to find other jobs or simply parted ways with the Volunteers' football program.

Dooley's first hire was to pluck hard-working running backs coach and highly regarded recruiter Jay Graham from the South Carolina staff. Dooley then made a flurry of hires in January, when he tabbed Sunseri --- fresh off a national championship as an Alabama assistant --- to head his defense and quickly added Ansley, also seen as an emerging recruiting force, from a brief stint at Central Florida. Dooley also hired John Palermo to coach defensive line and Charlie Coiner to head up special teams. He then was considered to have vastly upgraded his coaching along the offensive front when he hired former North Carolina Tar Heels line coach Sam Pittman, who also had been previously recognized by Rivals.com for his recruiting work.

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