After yet another disappointing season in Knoxville, the Tennessee Volunteers have finally decided to part ways with head coach Butch Jones. Although the Vols may have been considered the “Champions of Life”, they have not reached the SEC Championship since 2007.
With a potential winless conference record on the horizon, Tennessee must convince another coach to take over a program that is forced to compete with both Nick Saban and Kirby Smart each and every year.
Jon Gruden (ESPN)
Rumor has it that the former Super Bowl Winning coach is finally ready to return to the sidelines. The question now, is whether that means taking over an NFL or a collegiate team. The ties between Gruden and the Volunteers can be tracked all the way back to the late 1980s where Gruden began his coaching career as a Graduate Assistant in Knoxville.
Gruden’s tremendous NFL resume and personality made him a top candidate for the Tennessee job in 2012 as well. While Gruden may be the slam dunk hire that the Volunteer faithful want, the odds that he leaves his current gig at ESPN to coach for the first time in nearly a decade is likely a long shot, with an NFL job being more likely if he does.
Dan Mullen (Mississippi State)
Following the fight that Mississippi State put up against Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide this past weekend, Dan Mullen’s name is not one that will go away anytime soon.
Although many people may argue that Mullen is content building the program in Starkville, those that oppose think he is ready to move on to bigger things. Look for Mullen’s name to be mentioned closely with both the Tennessee and the Florida coaching vacancies.
He has consistently proven over the years he has a niche for developing quarterbacks (Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott). Mullen is the coach that can finally put a product on the field that will get Volunteer fans excited for Saturdays again. If Dan Mullen truly is ready to leave Starkvegas, the Tennessee Vols should hurry and make their move to get him to Knoxville before it’s too late.
Willie Taggart (Oregon)
While Willie Taggart is still fighting to get the Oregon Ducks bowl eligible in his first season, his name has been mentioned for various coaching vacancies. His coaching and recruiting abilities are attractive to many schools and a big reason why Oregon hired him away from USF after last season.
Nearly anyone would be an upgrade from Butch Jones at this point for Tennessee fans, but Taggart could bring excitement back to the Knoxville for the first time in a few years.
Nevertheless, he is already at a program that likely has a better chance at winning their conference than Tennessee. Having to go up against both Kirby Smart and Nick Saban every year will not be appealing to many coaches, which is why making the jump from Eugene to Knoxville seems unlikely.
Jim Bob Cooter (Detroit Lions OC)
This name should be familiar to Tennessee fans due to his time as a backup quarterback for the Vols and later as a Graduate Assistant. Jim Bob Cooter is currently the Offensive Coordinator for the Detroit Lions and has been an offensive assistant for the Detroit Lions since the 2014 season.
In his two years as the Offensive Coordinator in Detroit, the Lions have finished either first or second in total offense in their division.
Former Tennessee great Peyton Manning even fought for Cooter to join the Denver Broncos’ coaching staff after his success coaching Manning in Indianapolis. If Cooter was able to earn the praise of one of the greatest players to play in a Tennessee uniform, it would not take long for Volunteer fans to get behind the coach as well.
Tee Martin (USC OC)
Tee Martin will always be someone that will hold a special place in the hearts of Volunteer fans across the nation. After serving as the backup to the legendary Peyton Manning, Martin broke numerous records on his way to an undefeated National Championship season in 1998.
Following a short NFL career, Martin quickly got into coaching and has been on the USC Trojans coaching staff since the 2012 season, where he is in his second season as the Offensive Coordinator.
Despite the up and down season of Sam Darnold and the Trojans this year, the 39-year-old Martin will likely be a hot commodity for coaching vacancies in the near future. Look for Martin to be a potential fallback option for his alma mater if the other candidates fall through.
Bobby Petrino (Louisville)
With many changes on the horizon for the Louisville athletic department, Bobby Petrino could look for a way out as soon as possible. While it seems that trouble has always followed Petrino regardless of where he is coaching, his name continues to be brought up for major vacancies each season.
His coaching resume is definitely something worth looking at as he is nearly 50 games over .500 and has been successful at nearly every stop during his coaching career.
Being that controversy has followed Petrino throughout his career, major programs such as Tennessee could ultimately stay away from the Louisville head coach. However, he would clearly be an upgrade over Butch Jones and could help the Volunteers return to competitive football in the Southeastern Conference.
He is no Jon Gruden or Dan Mullen, but he could be a more realistic candidate for the Vols if they decide to turn the job down.
Other candidates to keep an eye on: Scott Frost (UCF), Chip Kelly (ESPN), Lane Kiffin (FAU), Brady Hoke (Tennessee Interim), Mike Norvell (Memphis), Matt Campbell (Iowa State), Jeff Brohm (Purdue)
Who do you think should be the next coach? Discuss in the comments below!
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