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Sources: Tennessee's defensive coordinator search zeroes in on Ohio State coach

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Tennessee's pursuit of a defensive coordinator has extended into the Big Ten Conference.

Multiple sources on Sunday tell FootballScoop that the Vols' search for Josh Heupel's first defensive coordinator is centering on popular Ohio State assistant coach, Al Washington.

A Boston College alum and native of Columbus, Ohio, Washington has served as the Buckeyes' linebackers coach for the past two seasons after spending the 2018 season on Jim Harbaugh's Michigan staff.

Washington's been a coach at college football's highest levels since 2012 and owns Power-5 coaching experience on both sides of the ball; three of seasons at Boston College, from 2013-15, were spent coaching the Eagles' running backs.

Defensively, Washington has coached along the defensive line. He's coached four years along the defensive front between Slippery Rock, Cincinnati and Boston College; he has four years coaching linebackers between Elon, Michigan and Ohio State.

The Buckeyes are interested in retaining Washington and also have some additional money remaining from the retirement of Greg Mattison, whose salary at Ohio State the past two years was approximately $1.1 million per season.

Sources told FootballScoop over the past 48 to 72 hours that Tennessee's search had included Zooms and additional interviews with multiple coaches, including some that advanced to the stage of Tennessee discussing a three-year contract with at least one candidate.

Though Washington has yet to call plays at the collegiate level, he's viewed as an extremely “high-energy coach” and a valuable recruiter who relates well to his players, sources who have worked with Washington told FootballScoop.

Tennessee is trying to fill out its complete first staff under Heupel, who was hired on January 27 by Danny White, previously Heupel's boss at Central Florida. Tennessee hired White on January 20, who conducted a search through the ensuing weekend that centered around multiple candidates, including Penn State head coach James Franklin.

Heupel has begun piecing together his complete staff, bringing Alex Golesh, Glen Elarbee and Joey Halzle on the offensive side of the ball. All three coaches were on Heupel's Central Florida staff; it's also likely that Heupel works to add Kodi Burns to the offensive staff in the coming days.

Additionally, Heupel has made multiple key hires in his recruiting department, getting Brandon Lawson to join him from UCF while also convincing Angelia Brummett to spurn the University of Southern Cal to rejoin Heupel's staff on Rocky Top. Heupel also snagged longtime friend and confidante Jake Breske to run recruiting operations from Southeastern Conference Eastern Division rival Missouri, where Heupel and Breske previously worked together.

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest coaching news.

Monday morning update> Sources tell FootballScoop Ryan Day and Gene Smith have made their appeal to Washington to remain with the Buckeyes. A decision is expected today.