The Tennessee Vols will be parting ways with head coach Jeremy Pruitt on Monday according to a report from Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel.

Pruitt’s future at Tennessee was already uncertain after going 3-7 in 2020. Throw in an internal investigation into impermissible benefits and it’s easy to see why UT had no choice but to move on from Pruitt.

The big question now obviously is what’s next for the Vols?

Tennessee is in a unique position to hire a new head coach. Thanks to the way COVID-19 altered the calendar year, the Vols don’t have a lot of competition to hire a new coach, but they also have some quality options to choose from.

Because of this unique scenario, there’s one thing Tennessee absolutely can’t do.

They can’t make Kevin Steele, who was hired last week by Pruitt, the interim coach for 2021.

That would be a disastrous move by the Volunteers.

Steele was a runner-up to Pruitt for the job in 2017. And he desperately wanted the Auburn job when Gus Malzahn was fired last month. Steele will absolutely want this job at Tennessee.

But it would be a major mistake by UT to give it to him — even on an interim basis.

The Vols have to get this next coaching hire right. And they need to do it fast. Otherwise, they risk losing a significant portion of the roster.

More than that, they’ll blow their shot at an elite 2022 in-state recruiting class. There’s no way the Vols can capitalize on elite in-state 2022 talent with an interim head coach. Those kids will just head to Clemson, Georgia, or Alabama if that’s the case.

The Vols have options. Hugh Freeze wants the job. Tom Herman is available. So is Gus Malzahn. Even Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell would be a quality option.

Whatever happens, Tennessee just can’t let Steele have this job. If that’s the decision that’s made, you might as well stick a fork in the Vols’ football program.

Featured image via USA TODAY Sports
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