Don Mahoney: Offensive line
Bio: After graduating from West Virginia State in 1993, Mahoney immediately landed at Central Michigan as a graduate assistant and stayed in that position through 1994.
He was promoted to tight ends coach for the Chippewas in 1995. He remained in that role through 1998. He then left to be the offensive line coach at Tulane from 1999-2006. During his time with the Green Wave his offensive line blocked for the school’s all-time top rusher, top passer and top all-purpose yardage gainer. He helped guide the Green Wave to a win in the Hawaii Bowl in 2002. To this date that is just the fourth bowl victory in program history.
He returned to Central Michigan in 2007 as the offensive line coach and then followed Butch Jones to Cincinnati in 2010 in the same position. During his tenure at Cincinnati the Bearcats have been one of the top offenses in rushing, total offense and scoring in the Big East.
Jones and Mahoney first met when they were both assistant coaches for the Chippewas in 1998.
What he has to work with: A lot of it will depend on who decides to come back. He has the potential to have one of the best units in the SEC. Losing left guard Dallas Thomas will hurt, but the return of left tackle Tiny Richardson and center James Stone gives Mahoney a couple of proven SEC starters to build around.
There’s a decent chance that right tackle Ja’Wuan James will leave early for the NFL. There’s a slight chance that right guard Zach Fulton could do the same. Still, there will be options regardless of their decisions. Guard Marcus Jackson has starting experience and utility player Alex Bullard has played every position on the line and even been used as a blocking tight end in situations. Worst-case scenario, Mahoney should have four players who have some starting experience returning.
If James and/or Fulton leave early, look for a group of rising sophomores – Kyler Kerbyson, Alan Posey and Mack Crowder – to get more playing time. Overall, this is a position that former coach Derek Dooley did a good job rebuilding
What they’ve said:
. “Don is a stickler for attention to detail and teaching of the offensive line,” Jones said while the two worked at Cincinnati. “His energy and passion rubs off on everyone in our program. His knowledge of offensive line play and teaching ability are second to none.”
. Has helped guide seven teams to bowl games and has won five conference titles.
. In his final year at Central Michigan, the offense led the MAC in total offense (423.1 yards/game) and his offensive line gave up just 1.21 sacks per game, 21st nationally. Freshman left tackle Jake Olson earned freshman all-America honors that season.
Assessing the hire: This is the hire that Tennessee fans and perhaps even some of the players might struggle with the most. Former offensive line coach Sam Pittman (now at Arkansas) was extremely popular after he rebuilt a unit that struggled mightily in 2011.
Before Jones was hired, James even went as far as to say he wanted to lobby athletic director Dave Hart to keep Pittman regardless of who was hired.
Bringing in Mahoney over keeping Pittman isn’t an indictment on Pittman, but rather a sign that he is who Jones feels comfortable with in teaching his offensive scheme. Mahoney certainly deserves a chance to show what he can do, but some will be quick to second-guess this hire if the offensive line digresses any this season.
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS