Vols lose assistants to Washington
Sarkisian gutted his defensive staff following a 67-56 loss to Baylor in last week's Valero Alamo Bowl. Defensive coordinator Nick Holt, linebackers coach Mike Cox and safeties coach Jeff Mills were fired after the Huskies allowed 777 total yards, the most in school history.
It didn't take Sarkisian long to find two of the three replacements as he scooped up a pair of coaches with strong West Coast and Pac-12 ties. Wilcox and Sirmon were teammates at Oregon, and Wilcox was the defensive coordinator at Boise State for four seasons before joining coach Derek Dooley at Tennessee two years ago.
Not a lot went right for Tennessee this season, but the Vols finished 28th nationally in total defense, and Wilcox and his staff were able to hold their own with one of the youngest defenses in the country. Three true freshmen -- linebackers A.J. Johnson and Curt Maggitt and safety Brian Randolph -- started most of the season.
Wilcox, 35, has been a hot commodity since his red-hot run at Boise State. He was wooed by Texas last season, but elected to stay at Tennessee.
Sirmon, a Wenatchee, Wash., native, played seven seasons with the Tennessee Titans as a linebacker. He spent the 2009 season as a graduate assistant at Oregon before coming to Tennessee in 2010 as a grad assistant working under Wilcox. In addition to being one of the Vols' top assistant coaches, Sirmon also was one of the program's best recruiters.
Tennessee, which suffered through its second straight losing season, has now had four coaching changes since a 10-7 loss to Kentucky on Nov. 26 ended its season.
Charlie Baggett, the Vols' assistant head coach/receivers coach, wasn't retained, while special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Eric Russell left to take a job on the Washington State staff when Mike Leach was hired as coach.
Dooley already has filled one of the openings, luring former star running back Jay Graham away from South Carolina to return to his alma mater and coach the running backs.
Chris Low covers SEC football for ESPN.com.