Vols Coaching Staff Sees Changes

By Mark Nagi

One of the reasons for the success of Tennessee football under Josh Heupel has been stability on the coaching staff. Over the last three seasons, there has been very little turnover.

But heading into the 2024 campaign, Heupel will be getting used to having two new assistant coaches in the UT football complex, with De’Rail Sims and William Inge jumping on board. Sims will serve as the Vols running backs coach, with Inge taking over the linebacker coaching duties.

“I’m thankful to Coach Heupel for blessing me and my family with the opportunity to come to the University of Tennessee,” said Sims. “This is a rich and storied traditional program. We’re fired up to be here.”

“It’s an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to be here at the University of Tennessee,” said Inge. “It’s an exciting time I think as we all know. I am really excited to be a part of this thing we have going on right now. It is awesome to be around the players.”

The running backs room is looking considerably different these days, with Jaylen Wright and Jabari Small departing. Last season, Wright gained 1,013 yards on only 137 carries, averaging an impressive 7.4 yards per carry. He also wowed pro scouts with a 4.38 40 at the NFL combine. Small made himself eligible for the NFL Draft after gaining 2,122 rushing yards and 26 total touchdowns in four seasons in Knoxville.

The good news for Sims is that Dylan Sampson is still on the roster and primed for a big season. Sampson has a combined 1,200 yards on offense with 14 scores in his first two seasons at Tennessee.

“Me and Dylan actually had a prior relationship,” said Sims. “I recruited him when I was at the University of Louisville, so we had a relationship prior. He’s been really good in terms of helping this transition. He’s actually a coach on the field and a coach in the classroom as well, so that’s been easy.”

Sims added, “I think you see the explosiveness jump off tape. You see the tenacity in terms of as he is attacking defenses. The willingness to put his face on people and go in there and block. I think the traits you see and what he’s shown is what jumped off to me on tape.”

The last stop on the coaching journey for Sims was at Cincinnati, where he spent one season in 2023. As for Inge, he had been the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Washington in 2022 and 2023. Last season the Huskies made it all the way to the National Championship Game, before falling to Michigan.

With Washington head coach Kevin DeBoer taking the Alabama job, it looked for a while like Inge would join him in Tuscaloosa. But Inge came to Knoxville instead.

“It has been like life in hyper speed, to where you have a chance to compete for a national championship,” said Inge. “Then, you’re getting ready to in a sense to rebuild and get everything squared away there. Then there’s change. Then there’s more change. Then, there’s literally, in last hour, there’s Tennessee… it has been a whirlwind. But that is kind of the nature of the beast that we are in right now. We are excited and we always take advantage of every moment that we have.”

Inge will get the chance to work with Keenan Pili, who hopefully will have a successful and healthy cap to his college career. He also has young linebackers like Elijah Herring and Arion Carter, who got a good amount of playing time in 2023.

“I think I knew that I could have a big impact here in the group with respect to my position, helping the defensive staff, the overall staff, helping our football team. And that was something that was important to me.”

Spring practice begins for the Vols today, March 18.