There will be familiar faces on the opposing sideline when Mark Stoops looks across Neyland Stadium’s field Saturday afternoon. Two of Jeremy Pruitt’s top assistant coaches are former Kentucky assistants under Stoops, which means former co-workers will collide when the Cats and Vols kick off at noon.
Vols defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley coached defensive backs for three seasons at Kentucky, and had accepted a promotion to co-defensive coordinator following the 2015 season, until accepting a job at Alabama a week later. He is now in his second season as Pruitt’s DC.
Joining Ansley as co-defensive coordinator and coach of the defensive line, former UK defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh is in his first season in Knoxville. Brumbaugh coached in Lexington for four seasons through the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl, and then had two brief stints at Maryland and Colorado.
Then there is one Vols assistant Kentucky can’t exactly claim, but his time in UK blue does exist. UT legend Tee Martin is Tennessee’s passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach; however, he was once a Wildcat as UK’s wide receivers coach in the two seasons prior to Stoops’ arrival.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s reunion with a couple of his former employers, Stoops shrugged off the notion that there is bad blood between his staff and the members of his former staff who now wear Tennessee orange.
“No different than any other team,” Stoops said. “The guys that left here, I have a great relationship with. (They’re) great coaches, great people, great families that I’m still very close to and have a good relationship with, so I wish those guys nothing but the best individually. But obviously the game is competitive just like every other one we play this year.”
He was asked because Vince Marrow hinted at some negative recruiting coming from that direction in the past. You may recall, on National Signing Day last December, Marrow had some words for a rival program, and though he never said Tennessee, it was in response to a question about the Kentucky-Tennessee recruiting rivalry.
“We will never negative recruit a school, but I can’t say the same for some other schools,” Marrow replied, “and you know what, we’re going to battle and I think that’s a good rival… We’re always going to be who we’re going to be, and they’re going to be who they’re going to be. They signed some pretty good players that we were recruiting, and we got some guys that they were recruiting, and I’m pretty sure this battle is going to go on and on.”
The battle will go on, indeed.
Hopefully the trend of Tennessee winning does not.