Prognosticating Phillip Fulmer's Replacements at Tennessee

Brian HoodAnalyst ISeptember 28, 2008

I was a regular contributor to Bleacher Report during my first month.  Everything was going good until that fateful day on Sept. 1st.  I have been in hiding ever since Tennessee’s collapse in Los Angeles.

Let me explain.

I sweat orange. 

I was born and bred a Tennessee Volunteer.  Football, in particular, is my vice.  Every fall Saturday in Knoxville is like my December 25th.  They are my holidays.  

But my gifts are getting rotten.   

Tennessee’s football program is slip-sliding away: away to obscurity, away to irrelevance on the national scene.  The historically underachieving basketball program has surpassed the football squad.

Tennessee’s in-state “cupcake” rival, Vanderbilt, is ranked higher than the Vols.  Phillip Fulmer is now the third most valuable coach on “The Hill.”

The team with the eighth most wins all-time and winner of a National Championship just a decade ago hasn’t won a conference championship in that same time frame and is in the bottom of the pack in the SEC. 

It is time for a change. 

It is time to start looking at possible replacements for the once successful Phillip Fulmer.  Here are my thoughts.

Top of the list 
Brian Kelly

Hot young coach from Cincinnati.  Last year’s Big East coach of the year hails from Massachusetts, the same state that produced Tennessee’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl—that turned out all right. 

Chris Peterson

The 43-year-old coach for Boise St. has a bright offensive mind.  His tricky, innovative offense would be a treat to Tennessee.  He won the Paul Bryant award in 2006 as the nation’s best coach. 

Mark Dantonio

Great recruiter would come in handy trying to recruit to Tennessee, where there’s not a wealth of high school talent.  Good character guy would be hard to pull away from his new job with the Michigan St. Spartans.

Skip Holtz

Successful coach learned under such coaches as Bobby Bowden and his father, Lou.  Rising head coach at East Carolina. 

Butch Davis

Davis is a winner and has ties to the area.  Another great recruiter would suit Tennessee beautifully.  Hard to pull away from North Carolina. 

Outsider list
Paul Johnson

The Western Carolina alum would add to the ever-increasing option spread attacks in the SEC.  Won the Bobby Dodd coach of the year in 2004.


Dave Christensen

One of the top offensive coordinators in the country working presently under Gary Pinkel at Missouri.  His no-huddle spread offense is very potent, and his teams have been shown to be very disciplined as well, something the Vols currently do not have.

Gary Crowton

Offensive coordinator at LSU also held the same position at Oregon and the Chicago Bears, as well as head coach for BYU.  All these teams were offensive powerhouses—just a brilliant offensive guru.

Will Muschamp

The young Georgia native is a defensive specialist.  He is currently the defensive coordinator at Texas after serving as the DC at Auburn, LSU, and the Miami Dolphins.  The very intense Muschamp is an extremely hard worker looking to get his shot at head coach. 

Charlie Strong

The young Arkansas native is also a defensive specialist serving as defensive coordinator at Florida and South Carolina.  His teams are usually stifling on defense, and his personality and youth make him a great recruiter. 

Far-fetched list

Jon Gruden

The Super Bowl-winning NFL coach got his first coaching job at Tennessee.   Tough-nosed coach would inject some discipline and physical style into the Vols. 

David Cutcliffe

The former Tennessee assistant for 18 years has coached some prolific offenses and quarterbacks in his time.  Had successful stint as head coach at Ole Miss and is currently trying his hand at Duke.  Would be hard to pull him away. 

Jim Harbaugh

Young, hot head coach is currently the leader of the Stanford Cardinal.  His infectious energy and enthusiasm would be a positive jolt to the Tennessee program. 

Steve Spurrier

The head ball coach is actually from the East Tennessee area.  He’s currently not having the success he thought he would at South Carolina, but this would still seem like a major improbability—not to mention his Augusta National membership wouldn’t get as much use. 

Lane Kiffin

Kiffin’s days are numbered as the head coach in Oakland, and he has ties to the University of Tennessee.  He has a track record of building offensive powerhouses, but his age (33) still might be an issue.


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