Tennessee is a very good job. There are challenges for anyone who takes the job, but what SEC school doesnâ€™t have its share of obstacles? I believe Tennessee will hire a competent coach; however, Iâ€™m not convinced the Volunteers coaching search will run smoothlyâ€”it will go much more smoothly than any recent Alabama hire. Here are a few names and some things to think about when these names are discussed.
Mike Leach could be headed for the NFL. Sports Illustratedâ€™s Peter King has said Leach â€œmight be the next big thing in coaching. What would San Francisco, St. Louis, Cincinnati or Detroit — or any number of other teams who might make a change — have to lose?â€
Iâ€™ve heard a few knocks on Leachâ€”mostly the defensive scheme (or lack thereof). While Texas Tech did a very good job at times stopping Texas, the team doesnâ€™t have a good defense. Iâ€™ve been told if Leach were to move to the SEC or any level of football, he would need to upgrade his defensive staff.
Jon Gruden has long been talked about in connection with the Tennessee job. This year Tampa Bay is playing solid football and could be headed toward the playoffs. The Bucs are sitting at 6-3. Hiring Gruden would likely have to wait until after the NFL seasonâ€”January (much like Saban.) However, Sabanâ€™s Dolphins missed the playoffs. If Grudenâ€™s team makes a playoff run, it could be late Januaryâ€”far into recruiting. Gruden would be a good hire, but it could cost the Vols an entire season of recruiting. If the Vols donâ€™t make an announcement by the conclusion of the bowl season, weâ€™ll know who the hire would be. Rumors are buzzing that with the Bucs bye week that Gruden would be in Knoxville. Does it mean anything if he ends up there? Maybe. Maybe not. Doesnâ€™t he have family in Knoxville? If Gruden were to move to college, he would easily become the highest paid coach in college football eclipsing Nick Saban, Pete Carroll, et al. Most interestingly, would this get Tennessee on the cover of Forbes?
Steve Spurrier has already denied interest in the job. No shock there, but his name always has buzz.
Dawg Sports says that David Cutcliffe wonâ€™t be the next Tennessee coach for a variety of reasons. One of the most compelling is Cutcliffeâ€™s past health issues. â€œDavid Cutcliffe already almost died for football once. Why do it again? After getting an incredibly raw deal at Ole Miss, Cutcliffe was hired as the quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame (which seems a little like having Joe Kines teach a French cooking class, but whatever . . .) and proceeded to have a massive heart attack. Afterwards he took some time out of football and openly reassessed his priorities. Taking the Tennessee job would be a sure sign that he forgot all he learned during that time.â€
Cutcliffe did an excellent job at Ole Miss and he did an excellent job with the Tennessee offense. However, his personal connection with Fulmer and the past health problems would be valid reasons why Cutcliffe would not end up as the Volunteer coach.
There are several assistant coaches who could be elevated, but I don’t think that is the path UT would explore. I could be wrong, and will keep a watchful eye out in the coming days.