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Meet the Tennessee offensive coaching staff

The group owns a combined 88 years of collegiate experience, 24 conference championships and 60 bowl game appearances.
Josh Heupel
Josh Heupel(Tennessee Athletic Communications)
Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 6:08 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - New Tennessee head football coach Josh Heupel formally introduced his offensive staff to the media on Wednesday as the Volunteers charted a course for their uptempo offensive philosophy.

The experienced staff includes offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Alex Golesh, wide receivers coach Kodi Burns, offensive line coach Glen Elarbee, quarterbacks coach Joey Halzle and running backs coach Jerry Mack. Including Heupel, the group owns a combined 88 years of collegiate experience, 24 conference championships, 60 bowl game appearances, as well as a history of elite, uptempo offenses.

”We are excited about them being a part of what we’re doing and getting our guys going offensively,” Heupel said. “And again, for us, on the offensive side of the ball, we’re going to play with tempo. We’re going to play in space. We’re going to apply pressure to the defense consistently, and we’ve got a group of guys here on the offensive side of the football that are ready to go lead that charge.”Golesh, Halzle and Elarbee were all a part of Heupel’s thriving offense at UCF that saw the Knights rank second in the FBS in total offense (568.1), fourth in passing offense (357.4), seventh in total passing yards (3,574) and eighth nationally in scoring offense (42.2) this past fall. Including his time at Missouri, Heupel’s units ranked in the top 15 nationally in total offense all five seasons. The success began at quarterback.”

Quarterback friendly – we are going to let you rip it,” Halzle said. “We are going to let you rip it all over the field. We are going to teach you. We are going to mold you into the best you can be, and then we are going to turn you loose to go play ball on Saturdays. We don’t make guys play scared.”

Meanwhile, Mack and Burns bring extensive on-field and recruiting success to Knoxville.

ALEX GOLESH - OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR/TIGHT ENDS COACH

Alex Golesh begins his first year as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator and tight ends coach. Entering his 18th season at the collegiate level. Golesh has enjoyed success at every stop of his career that dates back to his undergraduate days at Ohio State. Golesh arrived in Knoxville after serving one season on Josh Heupel’s staff as the co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach at UCF in 2020. Despite the challenges presented by the unique COVID-19 shortened season, the Knights shined offensively in Golesh’s first year, ranking second in the FBS in total offense (568.1), fourth in passing offense (357.4), seventh in total passing yards (3,574) and eighth nationally in scoring offense (42.2).

UCF earned a berth in the Boca Raton Bowl and multiple players earned postseason award recognition in Golesh’s lone season in Orlando. Golesh joined Heupel’s UCF staff after four successful seasons as the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator at Iowa State from 2016-19. Behind Golesh’s efforts, Iowa State’s recruiting skyrocketed, recording four of the best classes in school history. The four Cyclone recruiting classes under his watch all ranked in the nation’s top 50, including a pair of top-40 classes. The 2019 Iowa State recruiting class was the best in school history according to 247Sports, ranking No. 39 nationally and compiling a program-best .8550 composite rating.

Golesh was selected to the prestigious American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) 35 Under 35 class of 2019. The program is aimed at identifying and developing premier, future leaders in the football coaching profession.

Golesh was on staff at Toledo for three years from 2009-11, serving as both tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. Golesh aided the Toledo program in securing the No. 1 recruiting class in the Mid-American Conference in consecutive years. The 2010 Rocket class was No. 1 in the league according to Rivals.com, while both Rivals and Scout.com rated the 2011 class No. 1.

Golesh was born in Moscow, Russia, but grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and Dublin, Ohio, where he was a three-year letterwinner in football at Dublin Scioto High School.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Ohio State in 2006.Golesh and his wife Alexis, have one daughter, Corbin, and one son, Barrett. KODI BURNS - WIDE RECEIVERS

Southeastern Conference veteran Kodi Burns enters his seventh season as an assistant coach in the league and first year on Rocky Top as wide receivers coach on Josh Heupel’s staff.

Burns won a national title as a player and an SEC Championship as both a player and coach at his alma mater of Auburn. He also owns national championship game appearances as both a player and coach. He arrives in Knoxville after spending the last five seasons as the Tigers’ co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach from 2016-18 and taking on the role of passing game coordinator from 2019-20. During his tenure, a total of seven Auburn offensive players were selected in the NFL Draft, including Darius Slayton, who was picked by the New York Giants in 2019. Slayton has been a go-to wide receiver for the Giants in his first two seasons, including a team-high 751 yards in 2020. Burns’ final season at Auburn saw the Tigers earn a berth in the Citrus Bowl as standout junior playmakers Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz shined. The two ranked seventh and 11th in total receiving yards in the SEC, respectively, while combining for seven touchdowns through the air.

Under Burns’ watch as passing game coordinator in 2019, quarterback Bo Nix set four Auburn freshman records, and Will Hastings signed as a free agent with New England Patriots following the season. Auburn set all-time records for bowl game scoring and total offense in a 63-14 win over Purdue in the 2018 Music City Bowl.

In 2013, Burns worked with Auburn’s offense as a graduate assistant, as the Tigers led the nation in rushing (328.3), while ranking 11th in total offense (501.3) and 12th in scoring offense (39.5). Running back Tre Mason was a Heisman Trophy finalist and the SEC Offensive Player of the Year. Auburn claimed the SEC Championship and earned a berth in the BCS National Championship Game.

Burns began his coaching career in 2012 as a graduate assistant at Arkansas State under Gus Malzahn. The Red Wolves won the Sun Belt Conference with a 10-3 record, and Burns helped an offense that included a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard receiver and a 1,000-yard rusher. Arkansas State posted a 10-win season that culminated with a victory over Kent State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile.

From 2007-10, Burns earned four varsity letters at Auburn, excelling in a variety of roles. He was a quarterback his first two seasons at Auburn. In 2007, he became the first Tiger true freshman quarterback to start a game since Gabe Gross in 1998. He moved to wide receiver for the second half of his career, collecting nearly 2,300 total yards and 22 career touchdowns.

As a senior wideout in 2010, he guided Auburn to a perfect 14-0 season and the national title, scoring the opening touchdown on a 35-yard pass reception in a BCS National Championship Game win over Oregon. A native of Fort Smith, Arkansas, Burns earned his bachelor’s degree from Auburn in exercise science in 2011.

GLEN ELARBEE - OFFENSIVE LINE

Glen Elarbee arrives at Tennessee as one of the most established offensive line coaches in the nation. He returns to the Southeastern Conference after previous stops at LSU and Missouri and has worked alongside Josh Heupel for the last five seasons.

Under Elarbee’s direction from 2018-20, UCF’s offensive line flourished and paved the way for a rushing attack that ranked in the top 25 nationally and top three in the American Athletic Conference all three seasons. He joined UCF as offensive line coach in December 2017 and was promoted to assistant head coach for offense in the summer of 2019, a role he served for two seasons.

Elarbee’s first year in Orlando in 2018 was highlighted by one of the best offensive lines in program history, as the Knights repeated their undefeated regular season, won a second straight AAC championship and reached the Fiesta Bowl. UCF set the program rushing record with 3,448 yards on the ground behind a powerful line, which was the eighth-best ground attack in the country.

UCF totaled 522.7 yards of total offense per game, good for fifth nationally. The Knights also excelled in pass protection with just 19 sacks allowed all season, which ranked No. 25 in the FBS. Jordan Johnson, Cole Schneider and Jake Brown all earned AAC first-team all-conference honors, while Wyatt Miller picked up second-team honors. Schneider also received Freshman All-America accolades.

For his efforts in 2018, Elarbee was named a semifinalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the top assistant coach in college football. It marked the second time in his career he had been nominated for the award.

Elarbee and Heupel’s connection dates back to 2016. Prior to UCF, Elarbee coached the offensive line at Missouri for two seasons from 2016-17. His line at Mizzou helped the Tigers to 2017 FBS of No. 8 in total offense (502.2), No. 5 in sacks allowed (1.0), No. 14 in scoring offense (37.5), No. 14 in passing offense (308.6), No. 18 in first downs (23.4) and No. 16 in red zone offense (90.57).

Elarbee took over a Tiger offensive line in 2016 that had no returning starters and molded that group into one of the top lines in the nation. In 2016, Missouri was No. 13 in total offense (500.5), No. 20 in passing offense (295.4), No. 38 in rushing offense (205.1) and No. 48 in scoring offense (31.4) after the Tigers were no higher than No. 113 in those categories the year before. His 2016 unit led the nation in fewest tackles-for-loss allowed (36) and were No. 11 in fewest sacks allowed (14).

Following the 2016 season, Elarbee was nominated for the Broyles Award for the first time. He was one of just three position coaches and the only offensive line coach nominated.

He was on the coaching staff for three years at his alma mater, Middle Tennessee—one year as tight ends coach and two as a graduate assistant.

Elarbee, a native of Carrollton, Georgia, played 35 career games for the Blue Raiders from 1998-2002, starting his final 23. He was a two-time all-conference performer and a four-year letterwinner, leading Middle Tennessee to its first Sun Belt Championship in 2001.

He earned his undergraduate degree in math education in 2002. Elarbee and his wife, Holly, have one son, Griffin.

JOEY HALZLE - QUARTERBACKS

Joey Halzle, a three-time Big 12 Conference champion quarterback at Oklahoma, begins his first season as quarterbacks coach at Tennessee and his 13th alongside Josh Heupel. The two have been instrumental in elite quarterback development for 10 seasons at the collegiate level, and Heupel served as his position coach during his time in Norman.

Halzle (pronounced HALLS-lee) spent two seasons on Heupel’s staff at UCF, serving as an offensive quality control analyst in 2019 before being promoted to quarterbacks coach in January 2020. In his first season as quarterbacks coach with the Knights, UCF ranked in the top 10 nationally in total offense (second – 568.1), passing offense (fourth – 357.4), scoring offense (eighth – 42.2) and first downs (seventh – 283).

Halzle mentored sophomore quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who responded with a brilliant season despite the challenges presented by COVID-19. Gabriel led the nation in passing offense (357.0), while ranking fourth in the FBS in passing touchdowns (32), second in total offense (373.9), fifth in points responsible for per game (21.2), seventh in completions per game (24.8) and 16th in passing efficiency (156.3). He reduced his interceptions from the previous season. For his efforts, Gabriel was named a second-team All-AAC selection, and he earned Manning Award Quarterback of the Week honors three times and AAC Offensive Player of the Week recognition three times.

The former Oklahoma quarterback previously spent the 2016 season as an offensive analyst and assistant quarterback coach at Missouri after a year in that same role at Utah State in 2015. Halzle teamed up with then-offensive coordinator Heupel as the Tigers produced the SEC’s No. 1 total offense, averaging 500.5 yards per game, good for 13th nationally. Quarterback Drew Lock, who would go on to become an NFL starter, finished the regular season with an SEC-best 3,399 passing yards. That figure also ranked 10th in the FBS.

Halzle was an offensive graduate assistant for his alma mater from 2012-14 after helping the Sooners from 2009-11 as an offensive quality control assistant.

During his tenure with the Sooners, quarterbacks put up prolific numbers, and Oklahoma won two Big 12 Championships and appeared in six bowl games, including a Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl. One of Halzle’s protégés, Trevor Knight, was named MVP of the 2014 Sugar Bowl, throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns as the Sooners beat No. 3 Alabama.

Halzle was part of a 2012 offensive unit that ranked fifth in the nation in passing offense and 12th in total offense. He helped mentor Landry Jones, who finished his career with 16,646 passing yards and 123 touchdowns before being selected in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Halzle earned three letters as a Sooner signal-caller from 2006-08, helping Oklahoma to Big 12 Conference titles each of those years and an appearance in the BCS National Championship Game as a senior. He was part of a skilled quarterback room that included Sam Bradford, who captured the 2008 Heisman Trophy in Halzle’s final season. Bradford was a consensus All-American, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and the 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Halzle attended Golden West (California) Junior College after graduating from Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village, California.

Halzle graduated from Oklahoma in 2008 with a degree in human relations and went on to earn a master’s degree in administrative leadership from Oklahoma in 2014.

Halzle and his wife, Cara, have two daughters, Elliott and Saylor, and one son, Colson.

JERRY MACK - RUNNING BACKS

Memphis native Jerry Mack, who was a successful head coach at North Carolina Central for four seasons and served as the offensive coordinator at Rice the past three seasons, returns to the state of Tennessee as the Volunteers’ running back coach in 2021.

Mack owns 17 years of collegiate coaching experience and five conference championships, and he was a three-time HBCU Coach of the Year. He was named Rice’s offensive coordinator on Dec. 12, 2017, and tabbed the Owls’ associate head coach on Feb. 13, 2019. In his first year at Rice, Mack’s offense produced four individual 100-yard rushing days and three games with players totaling more than 100 receiving yards. He saw a trio of his receivers (Austin Trammell, Austin Walter and Aaron Cephus) each top 40 receptions and 500 receiving yards, the first time since 2008 that Rice produced receivers with those levels in the same season.

In four seasons at NCCU, Mack led the Eagles to at least a share of three consecutive MEAC championships and a berth in the 2016 Celebration Bowl, which pits the champions of the MEAC and SWAC each December. He compiled 31-15 record in four seasons as one of the youngest head coaches at the FBS/FCS level. He was named the 2016 HBCU Football Coach of the Year by Black College Sports Page and The Pigskin Club in Washington, D.C., after NCCU smashed its school record for offense on its way to the Celebration Bowl.

Mack led the 2014 Eagles to the most victories in the program’s Division I-FCS tenure with a 7-5 overall record and a share of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Championship. The team also earned the program’s first win over a nationally-ranked FCS opponent by defeating No. 24 North Carolina A&T in the final game of the season. NCCU broke the school record for pass completions in a season with 227 and ranked third in the FCS in turnover margin at +12.0.

Mack joined NCCU after spending two seasons (2012-13) at South Alabama as wide receivers coach. During that time, three of his receivers finished among the top five in the program’s single-season record lists for receptions and receiving yards.

He spent the 2011 campaign in his hometown with the Memphis Tigers, also as wide receivers coach, where he tutored the receiver with the second-highest single-season receptions in school history.

As offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arkansas at Pine Bluff in 2010, Mack transformed a unit that ranked 101st in the nation in total offense to 30th nationally and No. 2 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), breaking 10 offensive school records in the process.

Mack began his collegiate playing career at Jackson State before transferring after one season (1999) to Arkansas State. He lettered three years at Arkansas State (2001-03) before earning his bachelor’s degree in management information systems in 2003.

Mack completed his master’s degree in physical education from Delta State in 2006 after serving on the Statesmen coaching staff as a graduate assistant.

He has been selected for five internships in the NFL with the New York Jets (2009, 2010), Buffalo Bills (2008), Houston Texans (2018) and Miami Dolphins (2019) and participated in the NCAA Expert and Champion Coach’s Academy program in 2019.

Mack and his wife Starlett have two sons, Jaden and Jaxon, and one daughter, Skyler.

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