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Vols hire former Auburn coordinator Kevin Steele

Steele named as defensive assistant, Derek Ansley still listed as defensive coordinator
Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 12:51 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 12, 2021 at 4:25 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Tennessee head football coach Jeremy Pruitt announced Tuesday that veteran Southeastern Conference coach Kevin Steele has joined the program as a defensive assistant coach. Steele, a 1981 graduate of the University of Tennessee and former Vols assistant, returns to Rocky Top after serving as the defensive coordinator at Auburn the past five seasons. His units ranked in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense in four out of those five seasons, while producing 12 NFL Draft picks and multiple first-rounders.

”Kevin is someone I have respected and admired for a long time on and off the field,” Pruitt said, “I had the opportunity to learn and work with him during our time at Alabama and our friendship grew from there.

“He has outstanding knowledge of the game and understands what it takes to be successful in this conference. Having coached under the great Johnny Majors, he has a sincere appreciation for what it means to be a Tennessee Volunteer. We are thrilled to welcome Kevin and Linda back to Rocky Top.”

In total, Steele owns 38 years of coaching experience, including 13 years in the SEC and 10 years as a defensive coordinator. Pruitt and Steele reunite after serving on Alabama’s staff together from 2007-08.

”Linda and I are excited to be coming home,” Steele said. “Tennessee is a special place to me personally. I am truly grateful to Coach Pruitt and Coach Fulmer for this opportunity, and I am eager to get to work alongside them once again. I look forward to helping create an environment where our players are successful and truly embrace what it means to be a Volunteer.”

In 2020, Steele’s unit ranked fourth in the SEC in scoring defense while playing a 10-game conference slate. He also served as interim head coach for the Tigers’ Citrus Bowl contest against Northwestern. In 2019, Auburn’s defense ranked eighth nationally in both red-zone and third-down defense, allowing only 19.5 points per game against a schedule that featured six 11-win opponents. The 2018 Auburn defense ranked 14th nationally in scoring defense (19.2) and allowed only nine rushing touchdowns.

Steele coached with Bobby Bowden at Florida State for four years (2003-06), serving as the executive head coach for the Seminoles. He was named the Rivals.com National Recruiter of the Year in 2005 at Florida State after helping the Seminoles sign the top class in the country.

WVLT contributor and ESPN.com writer Chris first reported the hire of Steele who is currently listed as a defensive assistant on UT’s staff with Derek Ansley the defensive coordinator.

Steele, 62, was Auburn’s defensive coordinator the past five seasons but was not retained by new Auburn coach Bryan Harsin, who hired former Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason as his defensive coordinator.

Steele returns to his alma mater amid an in-house inquiry into alleged improprieties within Tennessee’s football program that has been ongoing since November. The university announced last month that it had retained the services of Michael Glazier and Kyle Skillman with the Bond, Schoeneck & King law firm to assist in reviewing what the university said in a statement were “regulatory issues that have been brought to our attention.”

ESPN reported last week that Tennessee had not extended the contracts of assistant football coaches and had paused hiring coaches for vacancies while the Vols continue to investigate whether violations occurred within the program.

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