Who knew the 2017 Tennessee head coaching search would be a two-parter? After appearing to have his guy, Tennessee AD John Currie flew to Columbus, Ohio to officially sign Greg Schiano. Sometime along the way, it all fell apart. Tennessee fans took to Twitter, the streets of Knoxville and even blew up John Currie’s office phone to beg him not to make the hire, citing Schiano’s connection to the Penn State scandal.
Former players, prominent boosters and Tennessee politicians made their voices heard.
In the end, it worked. Currie was forced to nix the deal and we are all back to square one. Now what? Well, a couple of dominoes have fallen. Chip Kelly landed at UCLA and Dan Mullen ended up at Florida after all. Scott Frost is probably headed to Nebraska. Jon Gruden isn’t happening.
It’s time to reset the board. Here’s my best shot at doing that.
Tee Martin, Offensive Coordinator, USC Trojans
I think we’re going to hear a lot about Martin in the coming days. The former Tennessee quarterback has risen up the ranks and could save some face with Vol fans. I’m not sure if he’s ready to take over this job just yet, but the list of options is dwindling. Tennessee may be forced to take a risk here — I’d be just fine with doing that with Martin. You know he can recruit, after all.
UPDATE: John Brice reports that Tennessee has been in contact with Martin.
Mike Leach, Head Coach, Washington State Cougars
Leach has already been connected to the job by Football Scoop. He’s an oddball. He’s not a great recruiter, but he’d bring his potent offense with him. He’s proven he can score at in the Big 12 and Pac 12, but would that work in the SEC? There certainly are worse options.
UPDATE: Feldman notes that Currie is “intrigued” with Leach, but notes that there is a hurdle to clear.
UPDATE: Appears Leach was Currie’s man, but that got torpedoed.
Sources: John Currie was prepared to hire Mike Leach but university officials wouldn’t allow him to do so. Phillip Fulmer has been sabotaging search process in hopes to become Tennessee’s AD— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) December 1, 2017
Jeff Brohm, Head Coach, Purdue Boilermakers
We’ve kind of come full circle here on Brohm. He was the hot name when Butch Jones was starting to crumble, but Purdue cooled off mid-season. Brohm finished 6-6, which is a pretty big success considering the fact that Purdue won just three games in 2016. The turnaround is underway, but are you comfortable hiring a guy without seeing a finished product? Remember, this was a guy that followed Bobby Petrino and Willie Taggart at Western Kentucky.
UPDATE: John Brice reports that Tennessee has been in contact with Brohm.
UPDATE: Jimmy Hyams reported that Tennessee was set to announce Brohm as their head coach, but that deal fell apart. John Brice says Currie and Davenport were not on the same page.
Kevin Sumlin, Former Texas A&M Head Coach
I’d think Sumlin is a decent backup plan here, but far from a primary option. He finished out his time at Texas A&M with four straight five loss seasons. Still, you’re talking about a guy that has six years of SEC experience and won a respectable amount of games. He fielded some good teams at A&M, but experienced some massive collapses as well.
UPDATE: It appears Tennessee will turn to Kevin Sumlin after Doeren.
Lane Kiffin, Head Coach, Florida Atlantic Owls
I’ve purposely left Kiffin off of this website simply because I just don’t believe Tennessee would bring him back in such a crucial spot. I still feel that way, but the board is shrinking. Could the two sides get past the infamous exit in 2010?
Mike Norvell, Head Coach, Memphis Tigers
We heard plenty of noise on Novell relatively early in the search, but things seemed to cool down quickly. He’s probably going to be a target of both Arkansas and Mississippi State now, so it will be interesting to see if Tennessee gets back in this hunt.
Chad Morris, Head Coach, SMU Mustangs
Morris has taken a dead SMU program and is slowly taking them forward. He’s gone from two to five to seven wins in three years at the helm. You also have to remember his success as Clemson’s offensive coordinator, too. You will probably hear his name pop up with Texas A&M soon.
UPDATE: Tennessee reportedly interviewed Morris in Dallas.
Tennessee interviewed SMU coach Chad Morris Tuesday night in Dallas. Morris was a long time successful high school coach in Texas who was an assistant at Tulsa and Clemson before taking over at SMU. The Mustangs were 7-5 this season— Jimmy Hyams (@JimmyHyams) November 29, 2017
UPDATE: Bruce Feldman says they didn’t interview Morris.
David Cutcliffe, Head Coach, Duke Blue Devils
There was a point in time where this could have worked. I just don’t think that time is now. Cutcliffe is now 63 years old and coming off of a 6-6 season. He was 4-8 in 2016. If Currie went this route, it would be a tough sell to a program starved for wins. There would certainly be a segment of purists that would welcome him with open arms though.
UPDATE: Cutcliffe said no thanks to Tennessee, per Chris Low of ESPN.
Mike Gundy, Head Coach, Oklahoma State Cowboys
Gundy made our initial board, but things had been quiet around his name to this point. A rumored John Currie trip to Dallas changed that and Jimmy Hyams gave the connection some legs with his report on Tuesday, November 28th. We’ll see if anything comes of it (I have my doubts). Gundy is 50 years old and currently holds a 113-53 record at Oklahoma State.
UPDATE: Gundy turned down a 6 year, 42 million dollar offer from Tennessee to remain at Oklahoma State.
Dave Doeren, Head Coach, NC State Wolfpack We’ve seen Doeren’s name pop up here after the Schiano stuff. He appears to be somewhat in the mix, along with several other names. Bruce Feldman connected him to Tennessee here . Doeren just finished up his 5th regular season, putting in his best season yet at NC State at 8-4. He’s just 33-30 overall as the Wolfpack’s head coach.
UPDATE: Tennessee has reportedly met with Doeren.
UPDATE: Doeren is staying at N.C. State.
Kevin Steele, Defensive Coordinator, Auburn Tigers
Steele keeps popping up with this job. Here are Noah Taylor’s thoughts from his write-up on the possibility.
Steele is no stranger to the Tennessee program, having played linebacker for the Vols from 1978-79, and later becoming a graduate assistant coach and linebacker coach from 1980-82 and then again in 1987 and 1988. He had his one and only stint as a head coach at Baylor, where compiled a 9-36 overall record between 1999-2002.
Steele is currently the defensive coordinator for 2nd ranked Auburn, a position he has held since the 2016 season. Under his leadership, the Auburn defense currently ranks 11th nationally in total defense.