An early look at candidates to replace Derek Dooley as Vols' coach

Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley watches play against Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. Vanderbilt defeated Tennessee 41-18. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley watches play against Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. Vanderbilt defeated Tennessee 41-18. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Who should Tennessee go after as its next coach?

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Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart won't be taking any public input on his search for Tennessee's next head football coach, but that won't stop the speculation.

Here are a handful of candidates who are sure to be mentioned in the coming days and weeks:

(In alphabetical order)

-- Duke coach David Cutcliffe. The former Tennessee offensive coordinator and Ole Miss head coach would be welcomed back home by many members of the UT fan base, but others would prefer to go in a new direction rather than a return to the past.

-- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. He’s got a plum gig at FSU, but he’s also got a new boss. The resulting power play could push Fisher’s name into the picture for jobs at Tennessee, Auburn or elsewhere.

-- Miami (Fla.) coach Al Golden. If Golden wants to jump ship from the NCAA-plagued Hurricanes program, he could have plenty of landing opportunities.

-- ESPN Monday Night Football commentator Jon Gruden: Sure, it seems like a longshot, and it probably is. But if Gruden decides he wants to coach in the college game, a place like Tennessee makes more sense than any other destination.

-- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. If Gundy ever decides to leave his alma mater, he should have plenty of suitors.

-- Texas Christian coach Gary Patterson. A well-respected defensive coach, Patterson has built TCU into a powerhouse, but he has rebuffed several offers to leave. With TCU now in a BCS conference, that seems unlikely to change.

-- Former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino. Despite his disgraceful exit from Arkansas, Petrino is going to land somewhere this offseason -- and whoever hires him will be getting one of the top coaches in the country.

-- Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. He’ll be a hot coaching candidate for other schools, but given Derek Dooley and Sal Sunseri’s struggles, Tennessee will probably seek a proven head coach without ties to Nick Saban.

-- Louisville coach Charlie Strong. He figures to be one of the hottest coaching candidates in the nation, although Louisville has said it will do whatever it takes to keep him in the fold. A former defensive coordinator at South Carolina and Florida, Strong is 23-13 in three seasons at Louisville.

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Comments » 312

DavidB writes:

That list will get longer. I think there are more candidates out there. We really need an sec coach. Wouldn't hurt to offer Myers or Steve spurrier. Sure they may turn us down but never hurts to ask.

Rock85 writes:

GRUDEN!!!! Anyone else will be a let down....

td writes:

Tennessee will break the bank to get this hire right. There is no margin for error. The next Head Football Coach will be tasked to not only save the Football Program but to save the fiscal life of the entire Athletic Department.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

The comments in the earlier post by "td" are exactly right.

On another note, if UT hires Petrino, I just might send back my diploma. Seriously.

volnasty writes:

hey what about stanfords coach his teams plays hardcore defense

VolunteerLifer writes:

We should get a head coach who has already done what we need to have done - rebuild a down program. Think about Miss St, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Alabama, TCU, etc. What about Stanford and Oregon? Identify the person most responsible for building a lost program back from where it was to a solid success today, and go get the best one of them that our money can buy.

firemancooper writes:

Betcha Rex Ryan would take a fresh start

jobrando#216494 writes:

in response to Rock85:

GRUDEN!!!! Anyone else will be a let down....

jim mora at ucla is said to want a sec job

OrangePride writes:

On that list are a bunch of non-starters...not because they would not be good, but because they have little incentive to leave where they are and take over this shipwreck. Of the group, only Petrino would be an almost automatic "yes" and also have the pedigree to turn around the ship. I'm not a fan of his off field stuff, and he is NOT someone who would help Tennessee's immediate image problem. BUT....if he comes and wins (which I am certain he would do), in a few years, all would be forgotten. I recall Bruce Pearl did not arrive (or leave) with an unblemished slate. Kiffin CERTAINLY did not have a pristine record either. So...of that group, I think the realistic pickens are slim and we are hardly in a bargaining position. Gruden, if he really wants the job would be a sound choice, but I'm not convinced he REALLY wants to be here. We'll see. Could be someone not even on the radar right now. Frankly, I just want to get the pride and tradition back into Tennessee football!! GO VOLS! (and good luck to Dooley...he really did pour his heart into Tennessee).

OrangePride writes:

in response to jobrando#216494:

jim mora at ucla is said to want a sec job

If that's true, he'd be a great choice. He's done a five star turn around job at UCLA......AND he just beat the Kifsniffer's butt! I like it already!

Glentenn writes:

Offer Chris Peterson and Gary Patterson in the $4-5 million range. If they say no, go for Butch Jones from Cincy or Charlie Strong from Louisville for $3 million.

Jon Gruden is just too big of a risk to take for $5 million IMO.

gatorhator4eva writes:

i would not doubt gruden is hired. he is passionate about tennessee football and knows where they need to be. the question is not if the university and its donors have the money, it is are they willing to spend it. they should also consider JOHN CHAVIS in which lame kiffin screwed.

WoodstockVol writes:

Charlie Strong is the most likely choice that we can actually hope to get. Gruden already has a better job, Al Golden doesn't excite me and the rest aint leaving their current gigs.

oldsuwaneevol writes:

in response to BigVolinCarolina:

The comments in the earlier post by "td" are exactly right.

On another note, if UT hires Petrino, I just might send back my diploma. Seriously.

Ditto!

Ayres_Hall writes:

in response to OrangePride:

On that list are a bunch of non-starters...not because they would not be good, but because they have little incentive to leave where they are and take over this shipwreck. Of the group, only Petrino would be an almost automatic "yes" and also have the pedigree to turn around the ship. I'm not a fan of his off field stuff, and he is NOT someone who would help Tennessee's immediate image problem. BUT....if he comes and wins (which I am certain he would do), in a few years, all would be forgotten. I recall Bruce Pearl did not arrive (or leave) with an unblemished slate. Kiffin CERTAINLY did not have a pristine record either. So...of that group, I think the realistic pickens are slim and we are hardly in a bargaining position. Gruden, if he really wants the job would be a sound choice, but I'm not convinced he REALLY wants to be here. We'll see. Could be someone not even on the radar right now. Frankly, I just want to get the pride and tradition back into Tennessee football!! GO VOLS! (and good luck to Dooley...he really did pour his heart into Tennessee).

Shipwreck?

I would argue that the job is a better one today than it was three years ago. While Derek Dooley did not produce record-wise, he did improve the program and the national perception of the program.

The next coach will walk into a very good situation. A roster full of four, three, and two year players. This was not the situation three years ago.

NorthwestVol writes:

in response to titletownz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

As DC for Gruden perhaps....

mrvol2u writes:

Heard a crazy, crazy rumor! Pete Carroll wants back in College coaching and is talking to UT!!

Let the crazy stuff start!

The hope here is we get someone who has been a head coach before.

huntined#565710 writes:

GRUDEN or PATTERSON would be great. Remember BAMA hired a lot of coaches that tried to get that program back up and it took Saban to get it done. We need a proven coach that knows how to win and recruit the players that fit his program.

Show-me-your-TDs writes:

Jimmy Johnson for head coach... proven college football winner

OwensboroVol writes:

These things almost always end up being someone that you didn't suspect. There are a lot of good young coaches out there who would give Tennessee the type of energy it needs. Personally, I think We need to get Petrino in here and get cooking. I have no problem with his personal life. According to statistics He didn't do anything that 50% of men and 40% of women haven't done. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. I know he is a hell of a coach and Tennessee would be crazy to let someone else hire him if we have a chance.

HooRay_Vol writes:

Bill Cowher!........ No, but seriously Jim Tressel is a proven winner going all the way back to Youngstown State when he won all those consecutive national championships! And he can recruit too!

navarrebeachvol writes:

in response to titletownz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

with your mother?

volsmith writes:

Petrino is trash. Hope his name is not mentioned anymore.

SummittsCourt writes:

Has the recent duldrums in football made everybody mad! Please stop with the Jon Gruden coaching talk.

HE is not leaving espn to coach college football - especially not to a job where he has to start on the bottom and build. If he leaves the cushy booth it will be for an NFL job that he doesnt have to rebuild. Lastly, he isn't that great of a coach.

So stop it already.

OrangePride writes:

in response to Ayres_Hall:

Shipwreck?

I would argue that the job is a better one today than it was three years ago. While Derek Dooley did not produce record-wise, he did improve the program and the national perception of the program.

The next coach will walk into a very good situation. A roster full of four, three, and two year players. This was not the situation three years ago.

Yes, Ayers, you are right that the job itself is a better situation than 3 years ago....and yes Dooley did improve our image and basic talent level...no question. But right now, our football program is the midst of 3 horrendous years of results and is probably in the bottom 3. I frankly don't think the next coach walks into a nice base of 3 and 4 star talent...much will depend on who leaves for the draft and the incoming class. So if "ship wreck" is too strong a description, then mea culpa. But whoever arrives will have a tough road ahead. OF COURSE, our facilities, traditions, and fan base could turn the day....those are as good as it gets! We shall ALL hope for the best.

springcreekvol writes:

What's wrong with Petrino? Don't yall like winners?

stormblast writes:

What the hell is with the talk of PR disasters such as Petrino, Carroll, Tressel?

I want Tennessee to win on the field and off, not cheat or embarrass the state.

If Tennessee hires any of these three PR embarrassments, then the probations that follow will be deserved.

Glentenn writes:

in response to HooRay_Vol:

Bill Cowher!........ No, but seriously Jim Tressel is a proven winner going all the way back to Youngstown State when he won all those consecutive national championships! And he can recruit too!

Jim Tressel would be a nice hire but I believe he is serving a 5 year show cause ban from coaching.

FWBVol writes:

in response to springcreekvol:

What's wrong with Petrino? Don't yall like winners?

I love winners as long as they aren't liars and cheats, which describes Petrino.

thorsnake writes:

What about former TN Titans coach Jeff Fisher. He is well respected.

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to Show-me-your-TDs:

Jimmy Johnson for head coach... proven college football winner

I thought he raced cars...

seriously though, bad idea.

VolzsFan writes:

Regardless of who is available throughout football, James Franklin will continue to win big by Vanderbilt standards and when given an opportunity with real resources will win bigger than anyone. I would hire him tomorrow if he would say yes and not look back.

Since I have told, predict and educated 100% correctly over the years, I have spoken. The rest of you need to become readers and not writers.

OklaVOL writes:

in response to springcreekvol:

What's wrong with Petrino? Don't yall like winners?

Please.......Petrino IS NOT the right coach for Tennessee........Ask any Falcons fan....

FWBVol writes:

Jimbo Fisher is the name on the list I like the best. He's 29-9 in three years at FSU. He's 2-0 in bowl games. He was offensive coordinator and QB coach at LSU from 2000-2006 so he knows his way around the SEC.

Yes, Florida is a great state for recruiting, but as long as Fisher is at Florida State he'll always have to compete with Florida as the top program in the state.

Fisher, or any other coach that comes to UT and win, will be the most popular person in the state of Tennessee. In states such as Alabama, Florida, Mississippi...there will always be a heavy split among fans in the state because there are multiple big-time football schools.

I don't want to take anything away from what Vandy has done this year, but there should never be a football conversation when Vandy is considered on par with the Vols in football, sadly, that has been the case the last two years. I believe the right hire will quickly change that again the favor of the Volunteers.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

If Cutcliffe could lure Chavis back as DC I would endorse that hire..But, until Gruden is completely out of the picture you have to go for him.

Southland writes:

some of yall just do not keep up with college football Tressel cant coach for a while. Gruden is not coming but if he did what kind of resume does he have. If you hire a coach from texas he will leave for another job back in texas. Meyers is in a big time job and would never coach at UT. Charlie Strong is making big money and gets to play the big east which is saying he wins nine games a year playing nobodies. So far yall have not named a single canidate that is a serious one. Petrino,..really... you have to be kidding on that one. We have had our sleeze for the century in Kiffin. No more of that nonsense. Now having said all of that.. I dont know who is out there and dont see anyone to be real excited about. I am hoping Hart works quick before what few good ones our there are snapped up

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to Glentenn:

Jim Tressel would be a nice hire but I believe he is serving a 5 year show cause ban from coaching.

Tressel would have to miss the first 5 games of the season and a bowl game whenever they play in one again. This Show Cause is much weaker than Pearl's even though it's 5 years opposed to 3yrs.

volsfaithful writes:

If Stoops is available 10 year 75M offer and full stadium every Saturday. Maybe 60M would get him. OU almost lost again yesterday, but Stoops would bring defense with him and he seems to have good OCs.

1vavolfan writes:

How is James Franklin not on this list?

Vol82OK writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

Regardless of who is available throughout football, James Franklin will continue to win big by Vanderbilt standards and when given an opportunity with real resources will win bigger than anyone. I would hire him tomorrow if he would say yes and not look back.

Since I have told, predict and educated 100% correctly over the years, I have spoken. The rest of you need to become readers and not writers.

If the best Tennessee can do is the Vandy coach then that is a sad day. Franklin seems like a good coach but surely we can do better than that.

UTbassdrummer writes:

Gruden is not in the picture. The only reason we're talking about it is because fans want him and keep bringing him up. Squash it and let it go. "anything else will be a letdown" is simply foolish and symptomatic of the unsatisfiable reputation that Tennessee fans have now cemented themselves into. Gruden isn't coming to Tennessee. Don't ruin this process by being stupid.

thorsnake writes:

Jeff Fisher!

arkyvol writes:

if you believe the l.a. times, weasel boy might be back on the market.

arkyvol writes:

in response to OklaVOL:

Please.......Petrino IS NOT the right coach for Tennessee........Ask any Falcons fan....

rather than ask some sap who swings for falcons tickets, i'd rather look at his record--something the idiot who saddled us with orange pants should have done.

stormblast writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

If Cutcliffe could lure Chavis back as DC I would endorse that hire..But, until Gruden is completely out of the picture you have to go for him.

I believe it will be Cutcliffe. Gruden will not be in Knoxville. Neither will Stoops.

If he could get Chavis back, especially after what has been witnessed this year with this defense, then I believe it would be a welcome site.

I don't think there is a perfect coach out there now. This could be a multi-coach process to turn the program around. Dooley, no matter what anyone says, did improve on some aspects of the program. The offense was vastly improved. If Cutcliffe is hired and could bring Chavis back, then this could be the right hire (for this time in the program).

TK writes:

Chris Petersen - Bosie St.
Maybe he wants to coach on green grass instead of blue.

thorsnake writes:

Nice link. Bill Haslam was the beloved Major of Knoxville. His brother owns the Browns, and these two have major pull at UT. I know UT will contact Gruden. I know it's a long shot and UT will have to listen to the Bill Haslam's...

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to stormblast:

I believe it will be Cutcliffe. Gruden will not be in Knoxville. Neither will Stoops.

If he could get Chavis back, especially after what has been witnessed this year with this defense, then I believe it would be a welcome site.

I don't think there is a perfect coach out there now. This could be a multi-coach process to turn the program around. Dooley, no matter what anyone says, did improve on some aspects of the program. The offense was vastly improved. If Cutcliffe is hired and could bring Chavis back, then this could be the right hire (for this time in the program).

No doubt, Cutcliffe could stabilize a fractured fan base and give UT fb a stable leader with real experience in the SEC.

tnvol34 writes:

MY CHOICE FOR COACHES; GRUDEN, PETRINO, CUTCLIFFE,PATTERSON,LOVIE SMITH,and STRONG! GET IT RIGHT THIS TIME! BUT, DON'T OFFER OUTRAGEOUS SALARIES!

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