Many Tennessee fans were disappointed when new head football coach Butch Jones was unable to bring former Volunteer Tee Martin back to Knoxville as the wide receivers coach. Martin, who was the quarterback on the Vol’s 1998 championship team, elected to remain at Southern Cal in the same capacity. Vol fans being upset was understandable, as Martin has always been a fan favorite, but Tennessee ended up with a wide receivers coach that any school would be extremely happy to have.
Zach Azzanni, a Michigan native like Butch Jones, has an impressive resume in his short time as a coach. Azzanni graduated from Central Michigan in 1999 and would later serve as the wide receivers coach there under Butch Jones from 2007-2009. Prior to his time at Central Michigan, Azzani was a graduate assistant under then coach Urban Meyer at Bowling Green. Azzanni would also spend the 2010 season with Meyer as the wide receivers coach at Florida. Azzanni has also served as an offensive coordinator in his career. In 2011 he was the play-caller for Western Kentucky. After the 2011 season Azzanni joined Wisconsin as the wide receivers coach.
Wisconsin head coach Bert Bielema accepted the head coaching job at Arkansas this past off season, and Azzanni decided to reunite with Butch Jones at Tennessee.
As the wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Azzanni will have a tall order ahead of him. The team commonly known by many as “Wide Receiver U” lost their top two receivers from this past season in juniors Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson who both declared for the NFL draft. Tennessee also lost senior Zach Rogers, who scored seven touchdowns in 2012.
Returning for the Vols will be sophomore Alton “Pig” Howard and junior Vincent Dallas. The duo combined for only 22 catches during the 2012 season. Jacob Carter was the only other receiver to record any stats during the season, with eight catches.
Azzanni will have some solid young prospects to work with in his first season with the Volunteers. Jason Croom, a redshirt freshmen, was a four star receiver coming out of high school. The 6’5″ wide-out played in three games last season before being injured and taking a medical redshirt.
Along with Croom there will be several newcomers on campus this fall. Marquez North, the top wide receiver recruit in the state of North Carolina, committed to Tennessee shortly before national signing day. North, much like Croom, is a four star receiver that has good size at 6’4″.
Tennessee will also have freshmen Paul Harris, a 6’4″ three star receiver, and local Knoxville product Josh Smith a 6’1″ three star receiver.
The recruiting skills that Azzanni possesses will be an added bonus for Volunteer fans. Azzanni has been praised by Urban Meyer as a great recruiter and has ties to the state of Florida, an important recruiting battleground.
Butch Jones and his new staff at Tennessee have melded together extremely well. The closeness and hard working attitude has made it’s way over to the current team and incoming recruits as well. If you follow any coaches or players on Twitter it’s likely you’ve seen the hashtag #117 or #team117. This is a reference to being the 117th team in Tennessee history. It represents that team 116 is in the past and now it’s time to focus on 117.
Zach Azzanni was the right guy for Jones to hire, not just because of his resume, but because of how he fits with this staff, and this team. When you see the coaches interact you’ve got to have that feeling that maybe new head coach Butch Jones has caught lightning in a bottle.