Tennessee Volunteers hire Tim Banks away from Penn State to be defensive coordinator

(courtesy clipart library.com)
Tim Banks (Penn State photo)

February 15, 2021

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tim Banks, who helped guide top 25 units as the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Penn State the past five seasons, has been named Tennessee’s new defensive coordinator, head coach Josh Heupel announced on Monday evening.

“Tim brings great energy, passion and experience to the Tennessee football family,” Heupel said. “His defenses are known for their aggressive style, as well as their multiple coverages and fronts. He’s coached in big games and has a proven track record of success on the field and in recruiting. I know our student-athletes are going to enjoy playing for him. We are fortunate to have someone with Tim’s experience and caliber leading our defense.”  

Banks owns 14 years of FBS defensive coordinator experience, including four seasons at Illinois (2012-15), two years at Cincinnati (2010-11) and three seasons at Central Michigan (2007-09). During his successful five-year run at Penn State, the Nittany Lions ranked in the top 25 nationally in fewest yards per play allowed all five years and ranked in the top 25 in scoring defense three times and tackles for loss per game three times. He also proved to be an outstanding recruiter during his time.

Under Banks’ watch from 2016-20, Penn State was among the best nationally in multiple defensive categories – fifth in sacks (221), sixth in fewest passing touchdowns allowed (70), ninth in yards per play allowed (4.8), ninth in forced fumbles (95), 10th in fewest rushing yards per attempt (4.4), 14th in scoring defense (21.2), 13th in rushing defense (132.7), 17th in total defense (344.6) and 25th in pass defense (211.9).

Banks mentored players on the path to the NFL Draft as Penn State produced 10 defensive selections during his time, a figure that ranked 11th nationally and third in the Big Ten during that span.

The Nittany Lions owned a 46-16 record and posted three 11-win campaigns with three New Year’s Six games, including the 2017 Rose Bowl after claiming the Big Ten Championship. Penn State tallied a 33-13 mark in conference play during Banks’ time, and the Nittany Lions were second in the Big Ten in overall winning percentage (74.19).

Banks’ 2019 Penn State defensive unit shined, leading the nation in forced fumbles (22), while ranking fifth in the FBS in rushing defense (95.0), eighth in scoring defense (16.0) and third in fewest touchdown passes allowed (10). The Nittany Lions’ scoring defense was their best since 2009 as safeties Lamont Wade and Garrett Taylor garnered All-Big Ten honorable mention honors. Banks played a key role on a squad that posted an 11-2 record and beat No. 17 Memphis in the Cotton Bowl.

Banks’ 2018 defense that finished eighth nationally in team passing efficiency (106.10) and 15th in passing yards allowed (181.5) produced All-Big Ten safeties Taylor and Nick Scott. An opportunistic defense that thrived on takeaways, Penn State recorded 13 interceptions and held three opponents to 60 yards or less through the air, representing the first time that feat occurred in single-season school annals since 1976.

Banks’ second season was highlighted by the Nittany Lions’ second-straight New Year’s Six bowl appearance as Penn State topped No. 12 Washington in the Fiesta Bowl. That fall, Banks’ defense finished in the top 25 nationally in seven different categories — scoring defense (7th; 16.5), sacks (7th; 3.23), rushing defense (14th; 118.0), total defense (17th; 329.5), team passing efficiency defense (21st; 114.88), turnovers gained (23rd; 25) and tackles for loss (25th; 7.2).

Both of Banks’ starting safeties during the 2017 seasons were invited to the 2018 NFL Combine, including All-Big Ten first-team selection Marcus Allen and All-Big Ten honorable mention Troy Apke.

Banks’ debut year at Penn State saw the Nittany Lions claim the Big Ten Championship with memorable wins over No. 2 Ohio State (24-21) and No. 6 Wisconsin (38-31) en route to Pasadena that fall. His defense had a strength in forcing negative plays as it ranked seventh nationally in tackle for loss per game (8.1) and 19th in sacks per contest (2.86). Under Banks’ tutelage, Allen garnered 2016 All-Big Ten third-team honors as a junior after leading the team with 110 tackles, including six for loss and two fumble recoveries.

Prior to Penn State, Banks served as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Illinois from 2012-15. In his final season, the Fighting Illini ranked 15th in the FBS in passing defense (184.4) and 21st in team passing efficiency defense (112.24). Illinois reached the 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl. Meanwhile, three of his players were selected in the 2013 NFL Draft – defensive tackle Akeem Spence (fourth round), defensive back Terry Hawthorne (fifth round) and defensive end Michael Buchanan (seventh round).

Prior to his time in Champaign, Banks spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons as the co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Cincinnati, helping the Bearcats to the 2011 Big East co-championship. In 2011, the Bearcats finished sixth in the FBS in rushing defense (95.31), seventh in turnover margin (+12) and second in sacks (46, 3.54).

Banks coached 2011 Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year and 2012 NFL Draft second-round pick Derek Wolfe, as well as first-team All-Big East selections Drew Frey and JK Schaefer. For his efforts, Banks was nominated for the 2011 Broyles Award, presented annually to college football’s top assistant coach.

Additionally, Banks spent three seasons as the defensive coordinator at his alma mater, Central Michigan from 2007-09, helping the Chippewas win two Mid-American Conference titles (2007, ’09) and reach three bowls.  

Prior to that, Banks was at Maryland for four seasons, serving as the inside linebackers coach from 2003-05 and the defensive backs coach in 2006. Under Banks’ guidance, linebacker D’Qwell Jackson was a two-time All-ACC first team selection (2004-05), the 2005 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a 2005 Bednarik Award finalist.

Banks also made coaching stops at Memphis as the defensive backs coach (2002) and outside linebackers coach (2001), Bowling Green as the defensive backs coach (2000) and running backs coach (1999), Ferris State as the defensive backs coach (1997-98) and Bowling Green as a graduate assistant (1996).

A native of Detroit, Banks was a four-year letterwinner at Central Michigan. He was a two-time All-MAC second-team selection at cornerback (1993-94) and was co-captain on the Chippewas’ 1994 MAC Championship team. As a junior, he led the squad in tackles with 105 in 1993.

Banks earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial management from Central Michigan in 1995.


Born: Dec. 16, 1971
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan  
Education: Central Michigan, 1995 (B.A. in industrial management)
Wife: Robin

1996: Bowling Green, Graduate Assistant
1997-98: Ferris State, Defensive Backs
1999: Bowling Green, Running Backs
2000: Bowling Green, Defensive Backs
2001: Memphis, Outside Linebackers
2002: Memphis, Defensive Backs
2003-05: Maryland, Inside Linebackers
2006: Maryland, Defensive Backs
2007-09: Central Michigan, Defensive Coordinator
2010-11: Cincinnati, Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs
2012-15: Illinois, Defensive Coordinator/Secondary
2016-20: Penn State, Co-Defensive Coordinator/Safeties
2021: Tennessee, Defensive Coordinator

2017 Big Ten – Penn State (co-defensive coordinator/safeties)
2011 Big East – Cincinnati (co-defensive coordinator/defensive backs)
2009 MAC – Central Michigan (defensive coordinator)
2007 MAC – Central Michigan (defensive coordinator)
1994 MAC – Central Michigan (player)

2019 Cotton Bowl – Penn State
2019 Citrus Bowl – Penn State
2017 Fiesta Bowl – Penn State
2017 Rose Bowl – Penn State
2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl – Illinois
2011 Liberty Bowl – Cincinnati
2010 GMAC Bowl – Cincinnati
2008 Motor City Bowl – Central Michigan
2007 Motor City Bowl – Central Michigan
2006 Champs Sports Bowl – Maryland
2004 Gator Bowl – Maryland



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