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Tennessee Coaching Search: Hot Board 3.0

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Resetting for the 3rd time.

Tee Martin #17...

For the third time in this search, we’re resetting this coaching board. This time with a new face leading the charge. John Currie was “suspended” from his post as AD, but Phillip Fulmer has taken his spot permanently.

Currie led one of the strangest, most unsuccessful searches that I can remember. With Fulmer taking charge, it seems like a couple of coaches that weren’t in play may be back in play.

Fulmer gave us a clue yesterday, nothing that he didn’t have any head coaching experience when he took over the Tennessee job. Currie seemed to only want a sitting head coach with experience, but that might not be the case now with Fulmer.

With that in mind, let’s reset the board. For what it’s worth, I would expect a couple of new names to emerge here. We will update this post as they do.


Tee Martin, Offensive Coordinator, USC Trojans

Age: 39

Martin, Fulmer’s former national title winning quarterback, just wrapped up his second season as USC’s offensive coordinator. Martin has led the Trojans to two straight top 20 seasons of total offense. Martin is just 39 years old. Is he ready for such a big job? That’s debatable, but plenty of former players and a large section of this fanbase have latched on already.

Martin would need a strong staff around him, but you have to think having Fulmer in the AD’s office helps Tee’s cause.

UPDATE: We have contact. Fulmer and Martin have spoken, per Feldman.


Kevin Steele, Defensive Coordinator, Auburn Tigers

Age: 59

Like Martin, Steele’s name hasn’t gone away through all of this. A former Tennessee linebacker, Steele has spent the last 15 years as an assistant with big time college programs. He’s held positions with Alabama, Clemson, Auburn and LSU over the past decade.

Before that, Steele went 9-36 in four seasons with Baylor as the head coach from 1999-2002. He never won more than three games in a season.

Steele has overcome that though. He’s put together an impressive transformation of the Auburn defense this year, culminating with holding Alabama to just 14 points in the Iron Bowl this year. Still, he’d pretty easily be the toughest sell of all the names on this board.

UPDATE: John Brice reports that Steele is getting a second interview with Tennessee.


David Cutcliffe, Head Coach, Duke Blue Devils

Age: 63

Cutcliffe turned John Currie down last week, saying that he wanted to retire at Duke. His name has resurfaced with Fulmer in the fold now. Would Cutcliffe reconsider now that Fulmer is calling the shots? We’ll see. This would be a “get the band back together” move and a short term band-aid on a bad situation. There was talk of bringing Tee Martin with Cutcliffe last week, grooming him to take over one day. I’m just not sure how realistic that is.

UPDATE: After turning Tennessee down once already, Cutcliffe appears like he would do it again. There was some thought that Cutcliffe would entertain the gig with Fulmer in charge, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.


Jeff Brohm, Head Coach, Purdue Boilermakers

Age: 46

The Brohm situation was strange with Tennessee. Depending on who you listen to, Tennessee either offered Brohm, then lost the deal when they had to change the terms of the deal. Or, talks were never serious at all.

Jimmy Hyams jumped the gun and expected Tennessee to announce Brohm as the head coach on Tuesday. That of course didn’t happen.

Regardless of what is true here, Fulmer needs to reach out once again to see if there’s any interest there. Brohm was a top choice for me personally from the start of this process. He doubled Purdue’s win total in the first year of a rebuild after showing off his potent offense at Western Kentucky. This would be a home run hire at this point.


Les Miles, Former Head Coach

Age: 64

Les didn’t get a sniff from former AD John Currie, despite checking off plenty of the boxes that Currie coveted. Will that change with Fulmer calling the shots? They simply don’t get more experienced than Les Miles. If Tennessee is willing to entertain the idea of Cutcliffe, they should be falling all over themselves going after Les Miles.

I wrote on why earlier this week. Miles never really crashed and burned at LSU, it just kind of felt like it was time for some new blood at LSU. Miles likely isn’t your long term answer, but he could immediately give the Vols a proven winner that could stop the bleeding.

UPDATE: Tennessee has reportedly been in contact with Miles.

UPDATE: Miles appears out of the running.


Chad Morris, Head Coach, SMU Mustangs

Age: 48

Morris is another name that’s just kind of hung around, like Kevin Steele. Morris reportedly talked to Tennessee, but nothing came of it. He’s credited with building the Clemson offense to what it is today. He took over an SMU program that was dead in the water and just won seven games in year three. I’m a little surprised Morris hasn’t generated more interest to this point, honestly. With Texas A&M now off the table, Tennessee and Arkansas could certainly be in play.

UPDATE: Feldman reports that Morris remains in play.


Brent Venables, Defensive Coordinator, Clemson Tigers

Bruce Feldman reports that Venables could be in play for Tennessee. Venables has been the leader of the Clemson defense since 2012. It’s a little surprising that he hasn’t gotten more traction as a head coaching candidate to this point, but that may be beginning to change. The longtime assistant is still just 46 years old.


Mel Tucker, Defensive Coordinator, Georgia Bulldogs

Tucker has reportedly met or talked to Phillip Fulmer about the Tennessee opening. He has held positions with Ohio State, Georgia and Alabama on the college side. He’s been a defensive coordinator for the Bears, Jaguars and Browns in the NFL. Tucker is 46 years old.

UPDATE: Tucker has interviewed with Tennessee twice, according to reports.


Jeremy Pruitt, Defensive Coordinator, Alabama Crimson Tide

Pruitt is one of three SEC defensive coordinators in play for the Tennessee job, per multiple reports. Fulmer has interviewed Pruitt once, and will interview him again according to John Brice. Pruitt is 43 years old and came up through the Alabama high school coaching scene. He won a national title at Florida State in 2013 as the defensive coordinator. He spent two seasons at Georgia (14, 15) as a defensive coordinator before taking over Alabama’s defense after Kirby Smart left.

UPDATE: Feldman says Pruitt is a strong candidate for the Tennessee job.