What Tennessee Vols assistant coach Jimmy Brumbaugh looks for when recruiting a defensive lineman
When Jimmy Brumbaugh evaluates a recruit on the defensive line, he starts with an easy-to-identity quality.
The Tennessee Vols defensive line coach wants to see if a player has the size to compete in the SEC.
"Playing in the SEC, myself playing in the SEC, I know at some point that you’ve got to make sure that they have the ability to be able to hold up inside," Brumbaugh said Monday in a virtual meeting with the Knoxville Quarterback Club.
Brumbaugh, who played at Auburn from 1995-99, joined the Tennessee coaching staff in February. He filled the vacancy created when Tracy Rocker left for South Carolina. Rocker was part of Jeremy Pruitt's initial staff at Tennessee.
He explained his recruiting process, which starts with making sure a player is big enough. Then he focuses on two skills: change of direction and speed.
"You want to make sure those are tangible things because you can’t just sit there," Brumbaugh said. "You’ve got to move a little bit. You want to be able to make sure they have what I call COD — change of direction — and that they can rush the passer from the standpoint of maybe pushing the inside pocket, which is critical, especially like Saturday (against Georgia and Stetson Bennett), getting their hands up on the quarterback who was a little bit shorter and make him throw it over you."
Brumbaugh, 44, coached at Colorado in 2019 after two seasons at Maryland. He was a key member of Kentucky's coaching staff 2013-16.
He said the next thing he targets in a recruit is "pass-rush ability inside to make them get on the edges.”
Brumbaugh has an impressive track record with developing defensive linemen. He coached future first-round NFL Draft picks in Bud Dupree and Josh Allen at Kentucky.
He had four defensive linemen earn All-SEC honors with the Wildcats.
Brumbaugh explained how Allen, who was picked No. 7 in 2019 by the Jacksonville Jaguars, fit into the mold of a prospect he valued despite being slightly undersized when he arrived in Lexington, Kentucky.
"He had the ability to be able to get on the edge and do some different things," Brumbaugh said. "He grew. I remember him walking in the first day and we were like, ‘What in the world?’ And then, all of a sudden, you put 10, 15 pounds on him, (and) 10, 15 more pounds, and he ended up being a 260-pound guy."
No. 17 Tennessee (2-1) hosts Kentucky (1-2) on Saturday (noon ET, SEC Network) at Neyland Stadium.
Brumbaugh praised the play of veteran defensive linemen LaTrell Bumphus and Matthew Butler.
"They’ve done a good job of understanding the scheme, understanding what I’m asking for from them," Brumbaugh said. "And they’re leaders. They study the tape. They come in and they tailor their tips and reminders. From that standpoint, it really helps them in the ballgame because you can see, watch things happen."
He also said freshman Omari Thomas, a highly touted recruit from Memphis, has gone a good job but hasn't played a lot yet. He expects Thomas to be a good player with the Vols.
He also has been impressed with redshirt freshman Elijah Simmons for "anchoring the point" in the middle of the defensive line.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.