Jan. 10, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Members of the Vols coaching staff met with the media on Thursday. Check out what receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Zach Azzanni, defensive line coach/assistant head coach Steve Stripling and defensive quality control assistant Terry Fair had to say.
WIDE RECEIVERS COACH/RECRUITING COORDINATOR Zach Azzanni
(On the receiver corps) "There is a good foundation in there. There are some young guys that are hungry. We don't have enough of them, that is why we are on the road grinding right now recruiting. We have to get some more. There is no doubt, it is pretty depleted. I met with all the kids, they are hungry, they are hungry for a change. For me it is good. I have a silver lining losing a bunch of first rounders, there are no bad habits I have to break. I get to come in with a blank canvas."
(On providing opportunities to the young receivers) "I told them that everyone has an opinion. I have heard from the people that are still here, his strength is this, his weakness is this, he is limited is this but he is good in this. But I told them that is all good but I will form my own opinion. Our morning workouts will be huge, our 6 AM, we call them our standards. Our standard will be huge in the mornings. Just come and in see where we are at, athletically what I do have. Some of these guys I recruited, Vincent Dallas, we had on a visit when I was at that other place so I understand what he can do. The others we will see. We will go from there. They all have a clean slate, they all have an opportunity day one. I don't care if they are a walk-on, scholarship, third year, fourth year, it doesn't matter we are going to put the best guys out there."
(On what drove him to Tennessee) "Have you walked around here? There are no places like this in the country. This place is special. For me to have an opportunity to coach at a place that is nicknamed after my position, I am a receiver guy by heart, I have had other opportunities to coach other positions, I am a wideout coach, that is my passion. To come here at a place where receivers should be knocking on our door. We need to get that back. We need to get that back where it is a little easier to recruit wideouts here. We understand the tradition of playing here, we understand the tradition of playing that position here. It is a big deal. It was very appealing. Plus, the staff is what really drove me here. Next to the brand name of Tennessee. I have coached with Coach Jones, I have coached with all of these guys minus Coach Graham. What I have gotten to know of him, he is fits us perfectly. It is a seamless transition offensively for me. I helped Coach Jake and the rest of these guys build this offense at Central Michigan before I went to that place down south. I am really excited."
(On what he looks for in a receiver) "Besides from the talent. We want speed, that is a given. I want guys who can create separation. After fifteen years of doing this I want personality. I want guys who have different personalities and bring a little different edge to the field. I don't need a six-five guy and I don't need a five-eight guy, I need a mix of both. Guys that have loose hips, guys that attack the ball, and guys that can play in a no-huddle uptempo offense from an endurance standpoint and have the mentality to do that. Personality is big these days. If you bring the right or wrong one it can change your program."
(On meeting with the current team) "We have had a couple team meetings, a couple of opportunities to meet with the wideouts. They are still coming in individually. It has been great. They are juiced up. They love the vibe, they love the energy that is going on right now. I asked them all, `what is your feel right now with the place? What do you guys think?" They say, `Coach, everybody has a little different bounce in their step right now.' Everybody is really excited, the attitude is different. There is a renewed life, which there should be with change. They are excited."
(On being named recruiting coordinator) "One the key is I know what Coach Jones likes, that is why I am recruiting coordinator. We have similar tastes, pet peeves, and things like that, and what we think kids these like. We all understand it could be anything that makes or breaks a kid's decision. It could be the way a professor talks to them, it could be that the lights weren't on in the indoor facility. I could be anything like that that could make or break a kid in recruiting. I think that I understand what Coach Jones wants and what this staff wants. I am going to do my best. We have a heck of a recruiting department that are on board and are rolling. Our support up there is fantastic. My strength is getting organized and understanding what our staff wants and what Coach Jones wants. He doesn't have to tell me what he wants. I think that is probably one of the reasons he made me recruiting coordinator."
DEFENSIVE LINE COACH/ASSISTANT HEAD COACH Steve Stripling
(On the last few weeks) "It's been a sprint. It's obviously been very exciting. I'm really excited to be a part of this new staff. We have new facilities here, so it has been a little bit of a sprint. I've actually been here less than a week, so I haven't even seen Knoxville in the daylight. It's dark when I come in and it's dark when I head out. The key was to get in here and get acquainted with the staff. They players came back and started classes, so now my focus is getting to know the players and spending time with them. The other coaches obviously had the advantage of being here during the semester break. I didn't, I was at the bowl game, so I am just excited to be here and meet a lot of people. There are a lot of doors that I haven't even been in yet, so it is an exciting time."
(On switching to a 4-3 defense) "We've told them that we are going to base everything on a 4-3 and they are actually up in my office asking when we are going to start watching film. I've had to remind them that the focus for the next couple weeks is recruiting and that we need to come up with a strong recruiting class. There is going to be time to sit down, but they are excited about going to the 4-3. Obviously, as a defensive lineman, it is a very important part of it and with the transition we'll have to see if there are position moves and how young men fit in, but everybody is ready to go."
(On his relationship with Coach Jones) "I first met Butch when I was at the University of Michigan and he was the new head coach at Central Michigan. We got acquainted and spent a lot of time talking football. I actually went up and visited with his staff at one time. When Coach Carr retired, I was able then to go with Butch. I had two sons playing at Alma College, which is probably 25 miles from Central Michigan, and as a coach you don't spend much time with your kids, so it was great to be with Butch and it was great to be near my sons. That was the start of our relationship and I have been with him four years now. Butch is an attention-to-detail coach. Coach Jones has his eye on everything and I think my role is to help him do that. I think he has confidence in me that if he is out of the room or off the field, I can step in. The interim head coaching that I have done for him has put me in that position, so we just have a great relationship and we have great trust in each other."
(On his impressions of Tennessee before being hired) "Growing up, you always hear about Tennessee and what we term the Power T. I was excited to get here. I didn't really know what to expect, but it is fantastic. I can't tell you how much. Every day I am learning more and more. We are going through it with our team, we are talking about the traditions of Tennessee so it has been a great experience, not only for the team but for the coaches. We are learning a lot."
(On what he looks for in a defensive lineman) "We are going to look for athletic young men that can defend their gap, that can put pressure on the quarterback with a four-man rush and that have the ability to get off blocks because we know in every conference in the country that they hold. That is the kind of player that we are looking for, the playmakers."
(On the SEC) "I think, like most of the country thinks, that this conference is the premier conference so obviously there are going to be some differences. But I have coached at the highest level also, so I am excited to be here. Going out and getting great players, that is a big part of it and we all understand that good coaches have good players. I am excited about it and don't think it will be that big of a transition. I think the speed in this conference shows up, whether it is a lineman or at a skill position. I think the intensity in recruiting has been a difference, so it has been a learning curve for all of us. A lot of our coaches have SEC experience, personally I do not at this point, but I am ready for the challenge."
DEFENSIVE QUALITY CONTROL Terry Fair
(On making the transition from media to the coaching staff)
"I was never really big on asking questions. This is home for me being on this side. I've always envisioned myself being a coach. If not at the University of Tennessee then somewhere else. I am very appreciative of Coach Jones and the opportunity to come learn under him and his staff. You are talking about a man that is full of vision, is passionate about everything and where we have been as a program. I think under Coach Jones he has laid that foundation. Just like any house that is going to be built, it starts with the foundation and then there is the framework. You never just put the roof on first. There are going to be some challenges ahead, but how he has started this program out, I think is unreal. Like I said and continue to say, I have been blown away by his approach and how he has handled everything and moving forward how he will continue to do that. I know the players are very excited about it. He is the ultimate player's coach and he has an unbelievable staff as well. You talk about a diligent head coach and a diligent staff, these guys are very high energy guys, very knowledgeable, great teachers and developers of young men. For myself, it is just great to be around and learn from day-to-day."
(On his experience working in the media)
"It was rough being on the radio every day and especially here with the way things have been going over the last couple of years. The calls and the negativity that you had to talk about on a day-to-day basis was not what I envisioned when I went in to radio. This being my alma mater, those things really hurt you as a former player. As former players we always talk about that and we want to see it get back to prominence. But I think we are just all excited with what Coach Jones has been able to do in reaching out to the former players. Those guys are all excited about Coach Jones."
(On what he has seen from the players so far)
"I think these players are fired up about it. You can see it in their eyes when they come in to that meeting room. They want to win and the biggest thing the last couple of years has been the ability to trust and I think it has showed out on the football field, but his approach and the things that he is bringing to the program, not just on the football field but off the field, in building these football players into young men and student-athletes. I think these guys will see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is not going to be an overnight fix or anything. It is a process."
(On what his role on the staff will be)
"My role is to assist. I am going to be working with the defense and, of course, Willie Martinez in the secondary. I am going to be learning from everyone. This is my first year on the job, so anything I can take, any information that I can get from them, I keep my notepad and notebook with me. I'm all about learning right now. And working with the secondary. Coach Martinez is a great coach and what he teaches is all about the young men. Loving them up, coaching them hard, but loving them up as well. He has been a lot of different places and has been successful at those places, so for me it is great to come in and learn under a guy like Willie Martinez who has an intense passion for the job that he does. I'm blessed in that regard to be learning under him in year one. I'll be working with those guys, but also just the contact day-to-day with myself and these players who I have already known, but now will have the ability to get in-depth with those guys. I will be able to refer to the past and teach them about the history, the traditions of Tennessee because history will always be a part of the future. I don't think you can leave that out. Coach Jones has done a great job in stressing that to all the players and I think that is very important."