Phillip Fulmer

Current Tennessee coaching candidate blind taste test

When Phillip Fulmer took over as Tennessee’s athletic director last Friday, the Vols didn’t just hit the reset button on their coaching search, they mashed it a good one. Suddenly, we went from lists that included scores and scores of names and media outlets that all said something different to most media members reporting the same smaller handful of names. Maybe the chef has assumed sole command the kitchen so he could cook up something palatable to the starving masses.

Word is that Fulmer is wanting to make a decision by the end of the day today. If that’s true, we should know something soon after that, perhaps by Thursday. For now, though, let’s compare the short resumes of the guys that appear to be in the running and see how everything looks when you’re not focusing on their names.


Coach 1

  • Head coach, second-level program for three years
  • Coordinator, top-level program for four years before that

S&P+ as head coach

  • 2017: 60 (8/93)
  • 2016: 90 (72/126)
  • 2015: 103 (63/74)

S&P+ as coordinator

  • 2014: 76
  • 2013: 12
  • 2012: 14
  • 2011: 25

Recruiter Rankings

  • 2017 (head coach, second-level): Not in the Top 500
  • 2016 (head coach, second-level): Not in the Top 500
  • 2015 (head coach, second-level): 427
  • 2014 (coordinator, top-level): 75
  • 2013 (coordinator, top-level): 76

Coach 2

  • Head coach, top-level program for 11 years

S&P+ as head coach

  • 2016: 4 (22/3)
  • 2015: 11 (14/28)
  • 2014: 20 (58/9)
  • 2013: 13 (14/28)
  • 2012: 11 (36/7)
  • 2011: 1 (13/2)
  • 2010: 15 (42/3)
  • 2009: 12 (37/9)
  • 2008: 24 (28/34)
  • 2007: 2 (13/3)
  • 2006: 5 (12/6)
  • 2005: 9 (29/10)

Recruiter Rankings

  • Not in the Top 500 for any year on record

Coach 3

  • Coordinator, two top-level programs for three years

S&P+ as coordinator

  • 2017: 5
  • 2016: 9
  • 2015: 28

Recruiter Rankings

  • 2017: 453
  • 2016: 267
  • 2015: N/A

Coach 4

  • Coordinator, two top-level programs for three years

S&P+ as coordinator

  • 2017: 8
  • 2016: 35
  • 2015: 1

Recruiter Rankings

  • 2017: 20
  • 2016: 18
  • 2015: N/A

Coach 5

  • Coordinator, three top-level programs for five years

S&P+ as coordinator

  • 2017: 3
  • 2016: 1
  • 2015: 11
  • 2014: 16
  • 2015: 7

Recruiter Rankings

  • 2017: 149
  • 2016: 71
  • 2015: 37
  • 2014: 36
  • 2013: 1

Coach 6

  • Coordinator, one top-level program for six years

S&P+ as coordinator

  • 2017: 2
  • 2016: 6
  • 2015: 6
  • 2014: 1
  • 2015: 41
  • 2014: 62

Recruiter Rankings

  • 2017: 40
  • 2016: 6
  • 2015: 35
  • 2014: 227
  • 2013: 44

Coach 7

  • Coordinator, one top-level program for two years

S&P+ as coordinator

  • 2017: 15
  • 2016: 12

Recruiter Rankings as coordinator

  • 2017: 11
  • 2016: 1

Recruiter Rankings as position coach

  • 2015: 2
  • 2014: 2
  • 2013: 92

My Results

Just going off these numbers, as much as I can do so blindly after having done the research, here’s the way I think I’d rank them:

  1. Coach 2 — Head coaching experience at a major program over an extended period with excellent overall results. Not listed as a recruiter anywhere, but presumably his staff could recruit.
  2. Coach 5 – Five years as a coordinator, and excelled all five years. Did it at three different programs, so it’s not a fluke. Also a solid recruiter.
  3. Coach 6 – This guy is basically the same as Coach 5, except he’s only done it at one place.
  4. Coach 4 – A coordinator at two major programs with excellent numbers and elite recruiting to boot.
  5. Coach 7 – Basically Coach 4 with one year less experience, but arguably with even more promise, both in stats and recruiting ability.
  6. Coach 3 – This guy is Coach 4, but with worse recruiting.
  7. Coach 1 – Head coaching experience at a second-tier program after four years as a major program coordinator. As a coordinator, he looked much like the other coordinators on the list, but recruiting wasn’t elite. As a head coach, he has decent numbers on one side of the ball in his third year, but not on the other.

That’s how I’d rank them at this time. What do y’all think?


Here’s the key:

  • Coach 1: SMU head coach Chad Morris (formerly OC of Clemson)
  • Coach 2: Former LSU head coach Les Miles
  • Coach 3: Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele (formerly DC of LSU)
  • Coach 4: Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker (formerly DC of Alabama)
  • Coach 5: Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt (formerly DC of Georgia and FSU)
  • Coach 6: Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables
  • Coach 7: USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin


  1. I think 2, 5, or 6 would all be excellent choices based completely on the numbers. We’ll just have to see.

  2. Sad part is Coach 2 wants the job, but for whatever reason nobody wants him..

    • Yeah. I think the reluctance is a general feeling that the game had “passed him by” and he hadn’t adapted to today’s game. After looking at the numbers, I’m not sure they bear that out. His track record over that amount of time is great, and I’m guessing that if I looked it up, there would be several different coordinator combinations in there. And if that’s indeed the case, then it means he’s a CEO coach, and he relies on his coordinators. They can adjust to the times.

      I should go back and put in the records, because maybe it’s that his record didn’t match his S&P+, which could mean it was a gameday coaching thing, or at least a perception of one. But right now, I’m kind of thinking he was just a victim of his own success.

      • I think the “beyond his years” bit is just lazy. I point to Spurrier who got back into coaching at 60, being four years removed from Florida, and gave SC the best years in their program. He was a full time solution for them, Miles just needs to right the ship for a coach in waiting. If he overachieves then fine give him an extension. Both ways would be great.

        I still think that hiring Fulmer as AD is nothing more but a distraction from the real problems up top. Just a sudden spark to get the fanbase behind the administration for the time being. If the rumours are true and we hire an SEC DC like Steele, Tucker, or Pruitt then it’ll be exactly like a Schiano hire sans Sandusky. Sad to say but on paper Schiano looks much more impressive as a head coach than any of those candidates. The only way I’ll get behind one of those being hired is if Tee Martin is made OC. If that doesn’t happen then this whole process is just a huge flop.

        • I could end up getting enthusiastic for Miles, Pruitt, Venables, or Tucker, although that’s after the last two weeks and recognizing that we’re at a disadvantage now because of all of it. Before, I was really hoping for a real splash. None of these is that (except maybe Miles?), but I think any of them could turn out quite well. Somebody like Smart, for example.

          You’re right, though, if it’s a DC, then the OC hire is huge.


    The reason I love Chad Morris is that his offenses are incredibly flexible and basically tailor made to combat Saban’s increasingly popular switching zone defensive schemes. His defense’s strength comes from ensuring a numbers advantage up front by running a combination man/zone coverage scheme that has DBs reading routes in such a way that it keeps coverage over the top solid while releasing underneath to zone. What this ultimately does is limit the number of backs needed in coverage and leaves an extra defender for run defense and causes them to have a numbers advantage and wrecks run schemes that are designed around expecting fewer defenders to plug gaps.

    Morris, and Clemson’s continued offense, revolves around having a QB that can run and is given several options on many of their plays. With their most common “run” the QB has the options of keeping off end, handing off up the middle, pitching to a trailing back during the end run and even throwing the ball quickly by taking advantage of college’s rule allowing linemen to be up to four yards down field when a pass is released. In a traditional offense the QB serves no purpose on most runs once he’s handed off which helps the defense maintain a numerical advantage… Bama’s defensive scheme makes it worse. By involving the QB in the entire play Clemson/Morris buys back one player.

    TL;DR: I think Morris gets a REALLY unfair rap and runs one of the best offenses for combating the defense run by Bama and Georgia.

  4. And for the record, I think recruiting at Tennessee is far easier than folks assume.
    I’d not worry that much about a potential hire’s recruiting chops unless they were completely in the gutter.

  5. After doing some more research on Jeremy Pruitt he is the coach I now want above all others.

    We would almost certainly install the hybrid zone defense that’s been successful at Alabama and frankly it would be really fun to see Florida try to move the ball on that defense.

  6. This was a great way to approach this Joel. It helps clear out presuppositions about these guys.

    • Thanks. Even though I couldn’t really keep the names from myself (and they’re pretty easy to figure out anyway for most fans who’ve been keeping up), it really gave me a much better appreciation for Miles and helped me distinguish between the three DCs on the list. It also made me really wonder whether this would be a good time to catch Tee on the way up before he got locked up by some other major program.

      • I agree regarding Tee. It’s tough though. You don’t want to put him in a position he’s not ready for and basically burn him for the future. I’d rather he coaches somewhere else that’s an easier job for a decade and then come in as the superstar ready to take whatever our next coach has built and really shine with it.
        A lot of Pruitt buzz lately. He is only 43 which would make him a potential long-term coach for us. A successful Priuitt might, theoretically, keep Tee out of the HC job for us for a really long time. However, he’s a Bama grad. Soooo it’s also possible that he could see some quick success and then try for Saban’s job down the road. But that would be tough if the rumors are true that Dabo would want that spot. Anyway, that can’t be the calculus for us right not. We just need someone who can right the ship and get us results over the next five years. Beyond that, its all gravy.

  7. My rankings are pretty similar to your’s Joel. I’d flip your 4 (Tucker) spot with your 5 (Martin) spot just because the recruiting was a bit higher.

    Knowing who they are doesn’t really change much for me. Maybe I like Morris a bit more than the numbers give him credit for because I do like his improvement of SMU (which you can see the numbers rising even if they are still a bit low). His time as coordinator looks pretty solid too, although the recruiting is only so-so.

    I’m also lower on Steele, because I still consider his time at Baylor. I’m a little worried that he might be one of those who is best as a coordinator rather than HC. Granted, it was Baylor, but it’s still a terrible record. And he hasn’t been back to the HC spot since then either, and I don’t recall much interest in him by any schools for HC. So I’m just not too high on him as HC, but I do like him as DC.

    And going with the names, I’d probably go pretty similar in my overall. 1) Miles, 2) Venables 3) Pruitt with a small drop in excitement to 4) Martin 5) Tucker and then another drop to 6) Morris and 7) Steele

    • That’s a reasonable grouping. Not a ton of difference between some of those guys.

      • Yea, within in my 3 little groups, there is almost no difference in my mind. The hardest for me is actually the first group.

        I give Miles the edge just because of the experience. But Venables and Pruitt are both younger have the potential for being a long term solution which would be a huge step for the program right now. I listed Venables above Pruitt just because I’ve been a big fan of the defenses at Clemson. But Pruitt hasn’t been a slouch at his stops either.

  8. So apparently a five year deal was offered to Pruitt, but he turned it down because the admin wouldn’t let him coach during the playoffs. This is so stupid..

    • Apparently administration is wisely reconsidering this point.

      • Great googly moogly. The guy worked hard to get to the playoffs. Let him coach.

      • Yeah, let’s not torpedo the hiring of a coach that’s hopefully going to be around many years just so we can improve our chances of landing a single 5* recruit. Boy, we’d end up feeling, and looking, really stupid if we turned down Pruitt for that reason and ended up not landing Cade Mays anyways.

        Honestly, I’m fine with mostly sacrificing this whole recruiting class if it means getting the best HC possible. We’re already very talented and even if our class is mediocre I’m sure there will still be some future contributors in it.

  9. Pruitt has accepted the Tennessee job, per Hyams.

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