Ryan Bolinger details working with Cutcliffe, Clawson and Chaney at UT

Ryan Bolinger details working with Cutcliffe, Clawson and Chaney at UT

Football

Ryan Bolinger details working with Cutcliffe, Clawson and Chaney at UT

KNOXVILLE — Ryan Bolinger serves as head coach for Concord Christian’s middle school football team.

Concord Christian is in a process of restoring their varsity high school football team by fielding a middle school team in 2018, a JV team in 2019, before fielding a varsity team in 2020.

Bolinger began his coaching career at Tennessee in 2007 as a defensive graduate assistant under Phillip Fulmer, learning under defensive coordinator John Chavis and working with UT’s defensive line and special teams.

“I had an offer from Coach Steve Caldwell the defensive ends coach,” Bolinger told Vols Wire of getting on at Tennessee initially. “I knew in high school I wanted to coach in college and not play past high school. We met and he said if I wanted I could come to UT and work with our graduate assistants and that is how it got started.”

After working on film breakdowns with graduate assistants, Chavis then asked Bolinger if he wanted to sit in on linebacker meetings and go to practices. That is when Fulmer hired him as a graduate assistant.

Then-UT athletics director Mike Hamilton made a head coaching change from Fulmer to Lane Kiffin following the 2008 season. When Kiffin came in, he immediately cleaned house with his own staff, but it did not take long for Bolinger to be re-hired after not being retained.

Eventually Bolinger was promoted after only three months to the title of Assistant to the Head Coach under Kiffin.

“When Lane came in, he originally let go of all the graduate assistants, all six of us,” Bolinger said. “Probably about four weeks later, I got a phone call from him wanting to bring me back for a different position. It was not as a graduate assistant, but full-time and off the field.

“So I worked with defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, as a defensive staff assistant. Then three months later Lane promoted me under him as an offensive assistant to learn offense.”

During his time at Tennessee, Bolinger worked alongside offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jim Chaney.

With Chaney returning to Tennessee as Jeremy Pruitt’s offensive coordinator, Bolinger discussed his former colleague.

“I’m excited he is back,” Bolinger said. “I always thought the world of him. He is a really good guy and a good coach that knows his stuff. He is knowledgeable along with having a sense of humor and was always cutting up with us and the younger coaches. He is a good family guy as well, and so glad he is back.”

When Chaney arrived at UT in 2009, Bolinger did not know much about him other than coming from the NFL and coaching Drew Brees at Purdue.

“I did not know too much about him outside of what he did at Purdue,” he said. “I knew he was coming from the Rams and not a whole lot more. Just being around him and listening to him coaching different positions – quarterbacks and tight ends – I learned a lot in that one season I was there with him.”

Bolinger’s tenure at UT also featured him working alongside two other offensive coordinators in David Cutcliffe and Dave Clawson.

“Between both of those guys (Cutcliffe and Chaney) there are a lot of similarities and were things that made them successful,” Bolinger said. “The similarities are developing quarterbacks and changing up what needs to done based on personnel that you have. It was not them saying this is what we are doing and you are going to do it. You have to be willing to make adjustments.

“I was also with Clawson and I thought the world of him. Not necessarily as an offensive coordinator, but as a coach overall. He is really intelligent and I think he is one of those guys that is a better fit as a head coach than a coordinator. Some people thrive overseeing everything than just one side of the ball and being a little too complicated for players.”

With Chaney returning and serving as offensive coordinator for his third UT head coach, Bolinger also described Chaney’s role under an offensive-minded Kiffin.

“It was more Lane than Chaney,” Bolinger said of who called plays in 2009. “I was up in the box with him. Part of my role was helping out Monte with personnel signs and signals from the other team and relaying those. I was also up there with the offensive guys and Chaney definitely had his input, and at the end of the day Coach (Lane) Kiffin was making the calls.”

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