The Departure of Jerry Mack: What Does Tennessee Lose?
Tennessee's running backs coach Jerry Mack is leaving Knoxville for the same position with the Jacksonville Jaguars. What is Tennessee losing with the departure of Coach Mack?
The Vols averaged 204 yards/game in 2023, good for 10th nationally and 1st in the SEC. Jaylen Wright was a breakout star, notching UT's first 1000-yard rusher since Jalen Hurd in 2015 and the 19th such season in school history. But what might stand out most about Coach Mack, and what will be an absolute necessity to replace, is his ability to develop players. Check out how the running back production improved from the two years before Jerry Mack came to UT through his tenure here:
Remember that PPA is more or less a measurement of how well you're putting the team in a position to score. Pre-Mack, the running back group was practically a dead body being poked with a stick in hopes to see some movement. Of course, you can attribute a lot of the group's success to the overall offensive revival in Knoxville since Josh Heupel took over. But despite Heupel's reputation as a passing guru, the RB group has been leaned on heavily in this offense. And this isn't the only place Coach Mack's influence has been seen. Look at the same effect from his pre-UT days as the QB coach/OC at Rice:
And while no one would accuse Rice quarterbacks of setting the world on fire, there's a clear upward trend there under Jerry Mack.
Now with Coach Mack gone, where does Josh Heupel turn? It's important to get this hire right. With a talented young running back room already in Knoxville, it's vital that they get the right development to take that next step for the offense to run at full capacity. The living fan might immediately think of former Vol Montario Hardesty, recently released from coaching RBs at South Carolina. However, I don't think the hire has to be a former running back or running backs coach at all. Mack was a WR in college and this stint with the Vols was his first time coaching backs (he coached WRs and QBs before). The more important factor is getting a developer of talent who meshes well with CJH and his staff (and a great recruiter woudn't hurt either).