'Cut' likes his staff

Some fans figure the departure of receivers coach Pat Washington and offensive line coach Jimmy Ray Stephens from Tennessee's football coaching staff was an example of addition by subtraction. They assumed the Vols would be better off without Washington and Stephens, no matter who their replacements were.

Whether that argument holds water or not, there is reason to believe that UT's staff will be more efficient this season due to the addition of Matt Luke as tight ends coach and Kurt Roper as running backs coach. Both assisted at Ole Miss under David Cutcliffe, who recently began his second tour of duty as Tennessee's offensive coordinator. And both clearly made positive impressions while coaching a Rebel scheme very similar to what UT is running now.

There's no doubt that Cutcliffe's recommendation carried a lot of weight in the hiring of both Luke and Roper.

"Obviously, they have a good understanding of what we do, scheme-wise," Cutcliffe said. "They understand the tempo of how we work, how we approach teaching the offense, what our expectations and demands are. They have been really important in our staff meetings."

The fact Luke and Roper have worked closely with Cutcliffe in the past means there will be no adjustment period on either end. Luke and Roper know what Cutcliffe expects; Cutcliffe knows what to expect from Luke and Roper. This familiarity should pay dividends in 2006 and beyond.

"That's always an advantage," Cutcliffe said. "They know the terminology, know the language. It's easier for them to transfer it and teach their guys. They're both in pivotal situations for us because the big adjusters in our formations are going to be the backs and tight ends. They understand it so well that it's going to be easy for them to teach."

Cutcliffe also likes what he has seen from offensive line coach Greg Adkins and receivers coach Trooper Taylor, two UT holdovers he had not worked with previously.

"Greg and Trooper have been great," Cutcliffe said. "I'm really excited about this staff. I think this staff is very talented. They're all extremely smart, they're all extremely aggressive, they're all good teachers and they've all worked tirelessly to get this thing together."

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