The Tennessee coaching search is underway
Posted by: Pete Roussel on November 19, 2012
Since the dismissal of Derek Dooley as head coach, Tennessee AD Dave Hart has stressed that UT football needs stability.
Hart stated that it's 'critically important' to land a coach with prior head coaching experience. While the Tennessee job isn't what it used to be, evident by Duke's David Cutcliffe stating he won't pursue the UT job, it's still a terrific opportunity for any coach.
From a coaches' perspective, Hart stated a couple of important things on Sunday.
The Tennessee coaching staff moved into their brand new facility during this season's BYE week. The new meeting rooms, coaches' offices, and team meeting room would rival any program in the country.
Hart said, "Tickled to death that we have it. It is fantastic and when we finish moving in at that moment it will be the nicest in America."
He also stated that the new head coach will have total control over his staff: "I have never been involved in hiring of an assistant coach other than meeting with the prospective head coaches at the coaches request. I have told head coaches ever since I have been a director of athletics that I will do anything you want me to do, you hire who you want but you are accountable for your hires. That has been a standard operating procedure and I think the right line to walk."
Most importantly, this is a talented roster. Offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach Jim Chaney stated just before the season that 'we have the talent'. That wasn't coach-speak. Another Tennessee coach told me directly in the off-season that, "If we just stay healthy, which we didn't do in 2011, we ought to win at least 9 games."
The key to a long and successful coaching career is taking the right jobs. With the talent in the program right now, there's no question Tennessee can have an 8-win season at least next season. The 2013 non-conference schedule includes Austin Peay, Western Kentucky, at Oregon, and South Alabama.
As I see it, Dave Hart will target a coach from this group:
Jon Gruden: Gruden spoke at the Tennessee coaches' clinic on campus last spring. He is aware of the resources at UT. When Chris Mortensen says that he believes Tennessee would be the only college job Gruden would entertain, I think that's saying something. Mort usually knows something. I once heard Peyton Manning describe Mort as 'the guy that knows you're traded before you know you're traded.' As noted a couple of weeks ago during the Chargers-Broncos' Monday Night Football game, I think Gruden is dying to coach, right now. The question is... does he think he will have an opportunity this off-season at the NFL level? If not, the man loves coaching. I watched him coach 8th grade tight ends at the Manning Passing Academy two years ago. He just loves coaching, so I wouldn't completely rule him out. I have no doubt he misses watching film with a group of offensive coaches. You can only enjoy talking about "Gruden's Grinders" for so long.
Butch Davis: Davis (60) is cleared to coach, but will the negative perception hovering over Davis related to the academic fiasco at UNC deter an athletic director from contacting Davis? He is a proven winner, who recruited at the highest level as the UNC head coach. Davis stated just last week that he's ready to coach again. As the special assistant to Greg Schiano with the Tampa Bay Bucs, there's no question Davis would jump at the opportunity to lead the Tennessee program. A source close to Davis tells me that Tennessee, in fact, is THE job he wants.
Mark Dantonio: Dantonio (56) posted back-to-back seasons of eleven wins at Michigan State in 2010 and 2011. He is a no-nonsense coach, who has completely changed the culture within the Michigan State program since his arrival in 2007. He previously served as the head coach at Cincinnati for three seasons, and served as the Ohio State defensive coordinator during a 3-year stretch that included a national championship in 2002. Last off-season, Dantonio increased the pay for all of his assistant coaches. Michigan State is 1 of 15 staffs in the country that kept its entire coaching staff intact for two straight years.
Jim Mora Jr.: There's no question that Jim Mora Jr. (50) would jump at the opportunity to lead the Tennessee program. He accumulated a 31-33 overall record in four seasons as a head coach with the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks. He led the Falcons to the NFC South championship in 2004. In his first season at UCLA, the Bruins are 9-2. He does not talk nearly as much as Dooley and he just beat Lane Kiffin pretty convincingly, so Volunteer fans might already like the guy.
Jim Leavitt: The former South Florida head coach is now serving as the linebackers coach under Jim Harbaugh with the San Francisco 49ers. Leavitt was already a solid coach, who built the USF program from the ground. If you couple that with the valuable lessons he's learned over the last two years while working with one of the premier coaches in all of football, Jim Harbaugh, that's a good combination.
Pete Roussel is a valuable resource for coaches, athletic directors, NFL front-office personnel, and college football enthusiasts. A former college football coach, Roussel shares insight on coaches 365 days a year and is recognized as the most trusted expert on coaching transactions. Follow @CoachingSearch on twitter and send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org