It was announced on Wednesday that the University of Tennessee football program and defensive coordinator John Jancek have decided to mutually part ways. Jancek had served as defensive coordinator for the Volunteers for three seasons under head coach Butch Jones. He also served as defensive coordinator under Jones at Cincinnati from 2010-12. The duo's relationship goes back to their time as assistants at Central Michigan from 2003-04.
Jancek has been credited with turning around an abysmal Volunteer defense that ranked among the worst in Tennessee history under former coordinator Sal Sunseri. In 2015, the Volunteers finished 36th nationally in total defense and 16th nationally in scoring defense. Now that Jancek is no longer with the program, let’s take a close look at four potential candidates that could replace him at Tennessee.
Bob Shoop, Penn State defensive coordinator
Shoop has become one of the hottest commodities in college football and with good reason. Shoop’s Nittany Lions’ defense ranked 14th nationally this season, and he is largely credited with turning a terrible Vanderbilt defense into one of the top units in the country before following James Franklin from Vandy to Penn State.
Shoop has already turned down offers from powerhouse programs such as LSU and Auburn. In addition, he recently signed a new three-year deal with Penn State that would pay him close to $1 million annually. That is almost double the amount Tennessee was paying Jancek. There may be some interest on Shoop’s part if the price is right, but it seems like it would take a lot to lure him from Happy Valley.
Gene Chizik, North Carolina defensive coordinator
Chizik is another name that has been bantered about on the interwebs as a potential replacement for Jancek at Tennessee. There is no doubt that Chizik has an impressive resume. He took home numerous coach of the year awards in 2010 after leading the Auburn Tigers to an undefeated season and a national championship as head coach. He also served as co-defensive coordinator and assistant head coach for the 2005 Texas Longhorn team that won the national title.
This season was Chizik's first as North Carolina's defensive coordinator. He helped the Tar Heels win 11 games in a season for the first time since 1997 and improved one of the worst defenses in FBS in 2014. He also was one of the finalists for the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation's top assistant coach. That being said, North Carolina still finished just 95th nationally in total defense this season. Poor defensive performances against Clemson in the ACC Championship Game and Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl were largely to blame. Chizik is often regarded as one of the better defensive minds in college football, which is reflected by his resume, but his resume also reflects a couple of really bad performances as well.
Todd Orlando, Houston defensive coordinator
If the Vols decide to go the “up-and-coming” route, Orlando would make an ideal candidate. Orlando’s aggressive brand of defense would fit in nicely at Tennessee and the SEC in general. While Orlando’s Houston Cougar defense ranked just 53rd nationally in total defense on the season, his squad showed tremendous improvement down the stretch and ranked at or near the top of the FBS in several key categories. The Cougars ranked first in the nation with 35 forced turnovers and eighth in the country against the run.
Orlando’s best performance as Houston's defensive coordinator came against Florida State in the Peach Bowl. The Cougars held a previously impressive Seminole rushing attack to just 16 yards on the day, while forcing five turnovers. Orlando also found success in his previous job as Utah State's coordinator. The Aggie defense ranked seventh nationally in scoring defense (17 ppg) in 2013 and 12th (19.7ppg) in '12 under Orlando's tutelage. Orlando would likely come fairly cheap for the Volunteers and based on his track record, success should follow.
John Chavis, Texas A&M defensive coordinator
Most Tennessee fans would welcome “Chief” back to Tennessee with open arms. Chavis played as a nose tackle for the Volunteers from 1976-78. He also served as a Tennessee coach for 20 seasons, 14 of those as defensive coordinator under Phillip Fulmer. Chavis' defense played a significant role in the Volunteers' run to the 1998 national championship.
Chavis served as defensive coordinator at LSU from 2009-14, producing some of the best defenses in the nation year after year. He won the Broyles Award in 2011 while at LSU. Chavis most recently signed a lucrative deal to serve as defensive coordinator at Texas A&M. Chavis helped the Aggies' defense improve from 104th in the nation to 51st in 2015. Given the recent upheaval in College Station, it might just be the ideal time for Chavis to return home to Tennessee. For that to happen, the Volunteers would have to be willing to open up the wallet. Chavis is reported to earn somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.6 million next season at A&M.
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McVey is a diehard Tennessee Volunteers' fan who loves singing "Rocky Top" every opportunity he gets. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.