In February of 2011, Tennessee made one of its best coaching moves in a long time. After only a year with the team, Peter Sirmon was promoted from defensive graduate assistant to assistant coach over the linebackers. Many Volunteer fans questioned whether letting Chuck Smith go and promoting Sirmon was in the program’s best interest, and about six months later the answer has been made clear – definitely. That’s not to downplay the talent of the enthusiastic Smith, but Sirmon is simply awesome. He has been on an absolute tear on the recruiting trail this summer and shows no signs of slowing down as we get ready to enter September. For the Vol fans that do not spend hours upon hours in the forums and message boards, this may be a new name. Who is Peter Sirmon? How did he wind up at Tennessee? And just what makes him such a big deal? Let me fill you in.
Sirmon was born February 8, 1977 in Wenatchee, Washington. After a successful high school career, the highly touted linebacker chose to play his college ball close to home at the University of Oregon. From 1996-1999, Sirmon played for the Ducks and was a four-year starter earning All-Pac 10 honors. After a standout senior season, he was selected in the fourth round of the 2000 NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans. Sirmon spent seven years in the NFL, all with the Titans, and was a starter five out of his seven seasons. He was considered one of the most intelligent linebackers in the league and was well respected by his teammates. Many considered the Titans’ Keith Bullock to be the “field general” for the defense, but Bullock was always the first to clarify that no one knew what was going on out there any better than Sirmon. After he retired from the NFL in 2007, Sirmon spent a year working on the radio and television for the Titans. However, while he was still connected to the sport he loved, broadcasting just wasn’t enough for him.
In 2008, he accepted a job back in his home state coaching linebackers and kickoff coverage at Central Washington University. His time at CWU would only lead to bigger things as the Wildcats went 10-1 during the regular season and progressed to the NCAA Division II playoffs. The next year in 2009, Sirmon returned to his alma mater in Eugene, but this time as a graduate assistant. During this time, he worked exclusively with the scout team and helped breakdown video on the linebackers. That year the Ducks would go 10-2 earning a berth in the Rose Bowl against Ohio St.
So how exactly did Sirmon end up in Knoxville last year? Two words: Justin Wilcox. During his college days at Oregon, Sirmon and Wilcox both played on the same team and eventually became roommates. Wilcox was a fantastic defensive back from 1995-1999, and needless to say, the two formed a strong friendship during that time. This friendship was reunited in 2010 when Sirmon was brought on as the defensive graduate assistant at Tennessee. Throughout his first year with the Vols, he primarily worked with the safeties. At the time, Lance Thompson was coaching the linebackers while Smith was in charge of the defensive line. After the decision was made in February to let Smith go, Thompson was moved back to coaching the defensive line and Sirmon was promoted to assistant coach over the linebackers. I believe this change will go a long way to improving our linebacker core this year, because it is easier to coach and teach when the teacher has been through what the players will go through. It allows him to relate to the guys in a different way than someone that has never played that position; someone that has never had to perfectly time a snap count, or take on a block while keeping your outside shoulder free. Also, there is not a better guy we could have brought in to teach these guys how to mentally grasp the LB position, a position with a ton of responsibility. Many feel that linebacker will be one of our weakest positions this fall, but I think we might all be in for a big surprise.
So some are probably still wondering, okay, well what makes this guy such a valued asset to the staff in the recruiting process? Well, it really comes down to three things: character, experience, and work ethic. While there are several individuals on the Volunteer staff that carry many, if not all, of these attributes; no one has made a more immediate impact this year on the recruiting trail than Sirmon. He is just one of those guys that loves football, and is always wanting to learn more and grow in the knowledge of the sport. I mean this guy had a very successful NFL career, but unlike countless others, he didn’t want to sit up in a broadcasting booth and coast off of his achievements. Instead, he took a graduate assistant job at a D-2 school. Man, you want to talk about humble – this guy is the prime definition of what it means to be a student of the game. And this is not to bash commentators or broadcasters, because their job is awesome, but it’s to simply show that Sirmon is of a different breed than most. This attitude is what has allowed him to dominate recruiting thus far. Out of the Vols’ 16 current commitments, around half of these guys have verbally stated that Peter Sirmon played a major role in their decision to play ball at Tennessee. That my friends, isn’t luck, it’s being intelligent, organized, relatable and most importantly, persistent. But to be fair, I guess being a former NFL linebacker with a lot of name recognition doesn’t hurt either. But does this mean he is better than the rest of the coaches on the staff? No way, I’m not saying that. But I am saying that he is great at absorbing knowledge from the great minds around him and coaching within his means and within his area of expertise.
While things will cool down on the recruiting trail as high school football kicks up and the commitments become fewer, don’t think for one second that Sirmon is taking a break. In fact, if what he’s done thus far isn’t impressive enough, the guy is already doin’ work on the 2013 class. Different coaches are assigned different regions to recruit, and he covers Virginia and Ohio. According to virginiapreps.com, out of the 2013 VA Top 10 prospects, 6 of the 10 players have Tennessee in their top two or are looking to visit soon. Also, according to buckeyegrove.com, out of the 2013 OH Top 20 prospects, 9 have either camped with the Vols or have Tennessee in the mix for their services; this includes 4 out of the top 6 prospects in the state. Man, talk about getting a head start on the competition, those numbers are unreal, especially for a team coming off a 6-7 season.
Sirmon will continue to do great things at Tennessee as long as we can keep him here. You can be guaranteed that programs across the nation are taking notice of the work he’s doing in Knoxville, and it will only be a matter of time before he receives his first Defensive Coordinator offer from somewhere. If you still aren’t fully convinced that Sirmon is legit, then you are more than likely wearing a pair of jorts and a Gators tank top right now. And that’s okay, because we all love a nice pair of jorts…… don’t we? Anyway, be sure and check out next week’s recruiting article that will focus on the recruiting process of Coach Franklin and the Vanderbilt Commodores. Can they keep their momentum going through NSD? Or will they run out of the gas?
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