The Tennessee Vols need a new head coach after firing Jeremy Pruitt on Monday.
UT also needs a new athletic director. Phillip Fulmer agreed to retire in the wake of Pruitt’s firing.
An athletic director will obviously be hired first. Then a new coach.
While the new athletic director will have a big say in who is hired next, they won’t have the only voice. This is college football, after all. Big money boosters will have their voice heard, too.
Based on what’s happened so far, and what’s likely to happen in the coming days, I think there are three likely outcomes to Tennessee’s coaching search (and none of those outcomes end with Hugh Freeze taking over as the Vols’ new head coach).
1. Kevin Steele is the head coach in 2021
It certainly feels like it’s trending this way. Steele, who was hired as a “defensive assistant” less than a week before Pruitt was fired, is currently the Vols’ interim head coach. According to a report on Wednesday from Football Scoop, Steele may be able to make some hires in the coming days. Former Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Garner could be hired to the same role at UT. Football Scoop also reported that off-the-field assistant Kevin Simon could be elevated to inside linebackers coach.
Why would you let an interim make all those moves, just to hire someone else who might not retain those coaches? Right now, I think this is the most likely outcome.
2. Bill O’Brien is hired as the head coach
The day that Pruitt was fired I suggested that Bill O’Brien was the most likely candidate to be Tennessee’s next head coach. I still feel that’s a strong possibility, I just think Steele is currently the leader for this job. O’Brien is an attractive choice because he’d bring instant credibility to Tennessee. He also has extensive experience cleaning up a major mess at a program (he took for Joe Paterno at Penn State after the worst scandal in college football history). O’Brien would need some SEC flavor on his staff, so it would make sense that he’d want to keep Steele, Garner, and others around. He could also bring someone like Houston Texans offensive line coach Mike Devlin with him to Knoxville.
3. Tennessee rolls the dice on Jamey Chadwell
Jamey Chadwell should be the floor for the Vols in this search. He definitely wants the job. I know that for certain (even after the press conference on Monday that slammed Pruitt for letting recruiting violations happen). The only problem with Chadwell is that he doesn’t have any Power-5 experience. Coaching in the SEC is a LOT different than coaching at Coastal Carolina. If Tennessee hires Chadwell, it would be imperative for him to have guys like Steele and Garner on staff (especially since Chadwell is an offensive guy).I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vols find themselves in a spot where they have to choose between Chadwell and Steele. If that’s the case, I’m not certain which road they’d choose to take.
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