Former Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will join the Tennessee Vols coaching staff, according to a report from ESPN’s Chris Low.
Tennessee hadn’t confirmed the hiring as of early Tuesday afternoon. The university announced a hiring freeze around a week ago, stating the school would not fill any coaching vacancies while it conducted an internal investigation into potential recruiting violations.
Steele’s official title is not yet known. Derrick Ansley is still listed as Tennessee’s defensive coordinator, but the Vols currently have an opening for a defensive line coach. Inside linebackers coach Brian Niedermeyer’s contract expires on Jan. 31 and he’s likely to be let go.
A finalist for the vacant Tennessee coaching job in 2017 before Pruitt was hired and finalist that year for the Broyles Award given to the top assistant coach in college football, Steele had served as Auburn’s defensive coordinator since 2016. He was interim head coach in Auburn’s final game this past season after Gus Malzahn was fired.
Steele was not retained by new Auburn coach Bryan Harsin, who hired former Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason as the Tigers new defensive coordinator.
Auburn ranked in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense in four of Steele’s five seasons; 2020 was the first time the Tigers didn’t do so. Auburn allowed 19.5 points or less in each of Steele’s first four seasons.
Steele is well-versed in game planning against SEC opponents. Prior to Auburn, he spent a year at LSU as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach and had two different stint at Alabama, first as a defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach (2007-2008) then as director of player personnel (2013) and linebackers coach (2014).
A Tennessee alumnus — he played under head coach Johnny Majors from 1978-79 — Steele also had stints on the Vols’ coaching staff as a graduate assistant from 1980-1981, outside linebackers coach in 1982 and as defensive backs coach from 1987-1988. He also has history with Pruitt dating back to their time together at Alabama under Nick Saban.
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