When Phillip Fulmer took over as the Tennessee Vols athletic director this past December, he quickly zeroed in on three names for UT’s vacant head coaching position.

Jeremy Pruitt, who was eventually hired as the Vols’ new head coach, along with Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele were at the top of Fulmer’s list.

It wasn’t a big surprise that Steele was on Fulmer’s shortlist. Steele played at Tennessee in the late 1970’s. He also coached alongside Fulmer for five seasons in the 1980’s.

While it wasn’t a stunner that Steele received an interview, it would’ve been shocking to see the Tigers’ defensive coordinator hired to replace Butch Jones.

Steele spent four seasons as Baylor’s head coach from 1999-2002, compiling only nine wins during that span.

But just because Steele isn’t head coaching material in the SEC, doesn’t mean he’s a bad football coach. He clearly knows what he’s doing as a defensive coordinator. Under Steele, Auburn’s scoring defense has ranked in the top 12 the last two seasons.

On Monday, Steele commented on Pruitt and Tennessee. He was extremely complimentary of the Volunteers’ new head coach, saying “Jeremy is a very very smart football coach, a very smart football coach. He’s a tough guy that is relentless.”

Steele added “they’re [Tennessee] well coached”.

Pruitt was quick to return the praise, telling reporters on Monday that Auburn has one of the best staffs in the country.

The Vols will have their work cut out for them on Saturday if they plan to upset the Tigers on the road. Auburn obviously isn’t an elite team, but they have a dangerous defensive front that’s able to get consistent pressure without blitzing. Tennessee’s offensive line will have to show a lot of improvement for the Volunteers to have a chance at pulling off the upset.

Tennessee and Auburn kick off at 11:00 AM CT/12:00 PM ET on Saturday. The game will air on the SEC Network.

Featured image via Getty 

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