One of the biggest coups for Butch Jones’ staff at Tennessee was undoubtedly nabbing wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni out of Wisconsin. The pair worked together at Central Michigan from 2007-09 when Azzanni was Jones’ assistant head coach and wide receivers coach. When Jones departed for Cincinnati, Azzanni made stops at Florida (passing game coordinator/WRs), Western Kentucky (offensive coordinator/WRs) and Wisconsin (wide receivers).
Back together again, Azzanni follows Jones’ lead in pushing his players every single time they step inside the building.
“I always tell them, at the end of the day if I were to walk out of here and not be able to come back tomorrow, if I passed out and died, whatever it was, you’d be able to say, ‘Hey, Coach Z every day kept it 100 percent real with me.’ I can live with that. They’re never going to leave here and go, ‘Man I wish he would have pushed me harder.’ I promise you they won’t,” Azzanni said.
Through a decade and a half of coaching, Azzanni has collected six conference championships at his now seven stops. “Trust me, man. I know what I’m doing, I’ve got a lot of rings,” he told a Vols wide receiver.
Even if he has to push, pull or prod it out of them, Azzanni is determined to turn the Tennessee wide receivers into an entirely different unit.
“I think if you invest in their lives and you show them you care, you geniuenly care, you’re going to get more out of them,” he said. “When we’re in the fourth quarter of an SEC game and it’s 3rd and 8, I know that they’re going to look over to the sideline, open their chest up and give me their heart, and they’re going to look over, see me and know I’m going to do the same for them. That’s the only way I know how to do it.”