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Tennessee assistant leaving to join Alabama’s staff

Another coaching domino has fallen for Tennessee.

The Vols no longer have one too many assistant coaches as safeties coach and special teams coordinator Charles Kelly is expected to accept an offer to join Alabama’s staff, sources told GoVols247 on Saturday.

It’s unclear what role Kelly will have with the Crimson Tide, but after it appeared Tennessee might keep one of its top defensive assistants after he turned down a defensive coordinator job elsewhere, the Vols are back down to 10 assistant coaches having hired Tee Martin to an assistant coaching role on the offensive side of the ball earlier this week.

While in the short-term Tennessee won’t have to worry about which coaches to send out on the road recruiting, it’s unclear how Pruitt will adjust his staff after adding an offensive coach and losing a defensive coach.

Sources close to the situation told GoVols247 on Friday night that Kelly had an offer and was considering accepting it.

Earlier this week, Kelly was offered the defensive coordinator position at Maryland, but turned down the chance to join Mike Locksley’s staff in favor of remaining with Tennessee.

A trusted member of Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt’s defensive staff, Kelly coached with Pruitt at Florida State when the Seminoles won the national championship in 2013 and replaced him as defensive coordinator when Pruitt left for Georgia.

The Vols split up secondary duties with Kelly handling the safeties and Terry Fair coaching the cornerbacks, and though Pruitt was heavily involved in coaching the defensive backs in practices throughout his first year, as the 2018 season progressed he entrusted more of the daily responsibilities to Kelly and Fair.

Kelly was in his first season with the Vols having five seasons (2013-17) at Florida State. He was the linebackers coach and special teams coordinator for the Seminoles in 2013 before spending the next four seasons as their defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. Florida State signed Kelly to a five-year deal after the 2015 season and was due an annual salary of $883,000 over its final three seasons when Florida State changed coaching staffs after the 2017 season.

His 2018 salary of $325,000 at Tennessee suggests Kelly, who was on a two-year deal through January 2020 with the Vols, was still getting buyout money from the Seminoles.

Before his Florida State stint, Kelly was the special teams coordinator and coached defensive backs while serving as the interim defensive coordinator for part of the 2012 season during his seven-year tenure on the staff at Georgia Tech.

The former Auburn defensive back coached at Nicholls State, Jacksonville State and Henderson State and a pair of Alabama high schools before joining Georgia Tech’s staff in 2006.

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Tennessee this week hired Martin, the former USC wide receivers coach and offensive coordinator, to an already-full staff. Martin is expected to coach on the offensive side of the ball, but his role has not yet been specified. The Vols also hired Georgia’s Jim Chaney as their new offensive coordinator earlier this month, but Pruitt said last week it’s not been determined if he will coach the quarterbacks.

Martin arrived in Knoxville late Monday night, but Tennessee has yet to formally announce the hire of its former national championship-winning quarterback, even though he has been on the road recruiting this week and on Friday told The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman “it just felt natural” and “feels right” to return to his alma mater as an assistant coach.

Chaney replaced Tyson Helton, who left to become the new head coach at Western Kentucky just days after Tennessee’s 2018 season ended.

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