The Tennessee Vols need a new head coach after firing Jeremy Pruitt on Monday.

With athletic director, Phillip Fulmer set to retire, but staying on until Tennessee hires his replacement, it seems unlikely that this coaching search will have a quick conclusion.

Fortunately for the Vols, they don’t have an early signing period to worry about right now. They can somewhat take their time with this hire.

Now, I’m sure there will be a LOT of names tossed around in the coming days. A lot of folks want Hugh Freeze at Tennessee (I don’t think that will happen). Some will want Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell (definitely a possibility).

Former Texas head coach Tom Herman will likely be mentioned. So will former Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone.

It’s certainly possible that Tennessee could decide to hire one of those names. But I don’t think that’s the most likely scenario.

I think the leader in the clubhouse right now has to be former Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, who has recently been talking to Nick Saban about becoming Alabama’s new offensive coordinator.

O’Brien makes sense for Tennessee with the Vols in the midst of an NCAA issue (NCAA officials monitored Pruitt’s interview with attorneys last week, which means there’s likely some penalties coming).

In 2012, O’Brien took over an impossible situation at Penn State when he replaced Joe Paterno after the worst scandal in college football history.

O’Brien went 15-9 in two seasons with the Nittany Lions before taking over as the Texans’ head coach, where he went 52-48 from 2014-2020.

I’m not just aimlessly throwing O’Brien’s name out there, by the way.

The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman reported on Monday that “some very influential Tennessee people are interested in O’Brien”.

Feldman also reported that Peyton Manning will be a key part of finding the Vols’ next head coach. I wouldn’t be surprised if he prefers someone with NFL experience over someone like Freeze or Chadwell.

I’m sure this search will take its usual twists and turns, but right now my money is on O’Brien being Tennessee’s next head coach.

Featured image via Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
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