I think the Vols are either going to go for a hire that comforts the Vol Nation (Cutcliffe) or a try for a splashy hire (Leach, Cowher, Butch Davis, etc) before they dip into the assistant coach market. Even a red hot assistant like Will Muschamp would be well down the pecking order of phone calls for Vol AD Mike Hamilton.
As I said yesterday, the Vols haven't opened a formal football head coaching search since 1976, and they've only had a non-alum leading their team for about 14 total years since General Neyland retired in 1952.
The idea that they would hire a West Coast guy like Lane Kiffin seems wildly implausible. Talk about a culture clash. The idea of hiring Jon Gruden is also laughable. Gruden makes over $4.7 million per year, and his contract runs through 2011.
Tony Barnhart thinks the Vols likely won't get the rock star coach their fans want. One name that Tony threw out was Butch Davis. Unfortunately, Davis would be the perfect hire for them, and the one guy I'm hoping they don't land. The good news...Davis turned down his alma mater (Arkansas) and their pile of cash to remain at UNC. Granted, the UT job is better than the Arkansas job...but mama is mama. Davis's health (he's a recent prostate cancer survivor) may also be an issue in his or UT's evaluation.
Cutcliffe is an exceptional offensive coordinator. However, his recruiting as a head coach at Ole Miss was atrocious. One recruiting guru told me that outside of Eli Manning, Cutcliffe was bringing in recruiting classes at near Wake Forest talent levels. Given the lack of an elite in state recruiting base, you must be an exceptional recruiter and coach to win at UT. Over the long term, Cutcliffe doesn't scare me as head coach there.
Who do you think they land?
-- Candidates List - WRCB
-- I'm not a candidate - John Adams / Knoxville News
-- Fulmer's dismissal resonates at Auburn - Huntsville Times
-- Recruits left wondering - Clarksville News
-- Fulmer's Good. Others Great - AJC
-- Gruden won't Volunteer - Orlando Sentinel
-- 5 Candidates - Commerical Appeal
-- Following Fulmer will be hard - Tennessean
-- The Next Guy's Tough Task - Commerical Appeal
-- The Phil Fulmer Farewall Song - John Radcliff (AOL Fanhouse)