The Vols’ 2017 coaching candidates: Where are they now?

The Vols’ 2017 coaching candidates: Where are they now?

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Jeremy Pruitt has now served an entire season as head football coach at the University of Tennessee. This, of course, means that it’s about the time that bored Vols fans start talking about firing him just so they can feel alive again.

Yes, those were good times back in November, 2017 when we were almost hiring everybody and the national media was utterly clueless as to what actually happened on Schiano Sunday. You know, back when we analyzed the blueprint for how to properly conduct a successful coaching search and then got to work perfecting our uncanny knack to do exactly the opposite.

But while it was the most awkward in-air maneuver in recorded history, we somehow stuck the landing and gave a cordial bow as if that was exactly how we meant to do it. Ladies and gentlemen, Phillip Fulmer and Jeremy Pruitt. You’re welcome.

Yes, we know that Pruitt went 5-7 and finished last in the SEC East last season, but if you take a look at where the other candidates ended up last year and how they did, you’ll probably feel a bit better about that. A couple of schools made excellent hires, but considering everything below, I think we did quite nicely, all things considered.

Head coaches hired as head coaches

1. Dan Mullen

  • Hired as head coach at Florida
  • Went 10-3 (5-3), tied for 2nd in the SEC East
  • Beat No. 23 Mississippi State, No. 5 LSU, and No. 7 Michigan
  • Only losses were to Kentucky, Missouri, and No. 7 Georgia

Based on only one year of evidence, this was probably the best hire last year. I hate these guys.

2. Jimbo Fisher

  • Hired as head coach at Texas A&M
  • Went 9-4 (5-3), tied for 2nd in the SEC West, No. 16 in both polls
  • Beat No. 13 Kentucky, No. 7 LSU, a bunch of others; lost by only 2 to No. 2 Clemson

This may end up being the best hire in the long term.

3. Willie Taggart

  • Hired as head coach at Florida State
  • Went 5-7 (3-5), tied for 5th in the ACC Atlantic
  • Beat No. 20 Boston College, but lost to No. 20 Virginia Tech, No. 17 Miami, No. 2 Clemson, No. 21 NC State, No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 11, and unranked Syracuse.

Same overall record, but I don’t think Taggart’s first season at FSU was even as good as Pruitt’s first at Tennessee.

4. Jon Gruden

  • Hired as head coach at the NFL’s Oakland Raiders
  • Went 4-12, beating only Cleveland (in OT), Arizona (by 2), Pittsburgh (by 3), and Denver

It’s hard to compare NFL to college, but this result doesn’t line up with the hype, right?

5. Scott Frost

  • Hired as head coach at Nebraska
  • Went 4-8 (3-6); Beat only Minnesota, Bethune-Cookman, Illinois, and Michigan State, all unranked

Frost was one of the most coveted candidates, and . . . well, the jury’s out but this was worse than Pruitt.

Coordinators hired as head coaches

1A. Joe Moorhead

  • Hired as head coach at Mississippi State
  • Went 8-5 (4-4), 4th in SEC West
  • Beat No. 8 Auburn, No. 16 Texas A&M, and others; finished No. 25 in the Coaches Poll

Of the coordinators-turned-head-coach, Moorhead may lead the field, although it’s a close contest between him and Pruitt.

1B. Jeremy Pruitt

  • Hired as head coach at Tennessee
  • Went 5-7 (2-6), last in the SEC East
  • Beat No. 21 Auburn and No. 11 Kentucky, but lost to No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Georgia, No. 17 West Virginia, and unranked Florida, South Carolina, Missouri, and Vanderbilt

Pruitt’s right on the heels of Moorhead, and an argument can be made that they’re neck-and-neck. Also, when compared to the former head coaches, I think he is clearly third or fourth, behind Mullen and Fisher and close to Moorhead.

3. Chip Kelly

  • Hired as head coach at UCLA
  • Went 3-9 (3-6), 5th in the Pac-12 South
  • Only wins were against California, Arizona, and USC, all unranked


4. Chad Morris

  • Hired as head coach at Arkansas
  • Went 2-10 (0-8), last in the SEC West
  • Only beat Eastern Illinois and Tulsa


Hey, we almost hired a former head coach who instead got fired

Above are the candidates that were hired into new head coaching positions. The rest of the candidates stayed put, either because they chose to or because they didn’t get any offers decent enough to move.

The next three guys not only didn’t get any offer compelling enough to move somewhere, they couldn’t even keep their existing jobs for one more season.

Greg Schiano

  • Remained as defensive coordinator at Ohio State in 2018.
  • When Urban Meyer was suspended for three games, he handed the reins not to Schiano but to offensive coordinator Ryan Day.
  • The Buckeyes defense was not as good in 2018, and when Meyer retired at the end of the season, Day was made head coach. He did not retain Schiano after the season.
  • Schiano was hired as defensive coordinator for New England in February, 2019, but left after only a month.

Bobby Petrino

  • Remained at Louisville as head coach until he was fired in November
  • Team went 2-10 (0-8), last in ACC Atlantic
  • Only wins were against Indiana State and Western Kentucky

D.J. Durkin

In fall camp last year, a player died, and allegations of toxic culture under Durkin led to his suspension. He was later reinstated for a day and then fired.

Head coaches who stayed put

With the exception of Les Miles, the following guys all stayed as head coaches at other programs and had varying degrees of success. Former head coach Miles was not employed as a coach in any capacity in either 2017 or 2018.

1. Mike Leach

  • Basically hired by John Currie, who apparently did not have the authority to do so
  • Stayed at Washington State
  • Went 11-2 (7-2) and tied for first in the Pac-12 North
  • Beat No. 12 Oregon, No. 24 Stanford, but lost to No. 16 Washington. Beat No. 24 Iowa State in the Valero Alamo Bowl
  • Finished No. 10 in the AP and Coaches polls

Best candidate who stayed put.

2. Les Miles (former head coach, unemployed in both 2017 and 2018)

  • Not hired by anyone until after the season.
  • Now head coach at Kansas for 2019

We’ll see.

3. Matt Campbell

  • Remained at Iowa State as head coach
  • Went 8-5 (6-3), tied for 3rd in the Big 12
  • Beat No. 25 Oklahoma State, No. 6 West Virginia, and several others

4. Mike Norvell

  • Remained at Memphis as head coach
  • Went 8-6 (5-3), tied for 1st in the American West
  • No wins against ranked teams

5. Gary Patterson

  • Stayed at TCU as head coach
  • Went 7-6 (4-5), tied for 5th in the Big 12
  • No wins against ranked teams

6. Charlie Strong

  • Stayed at South Florida as head coach
  • Went 7-6 (3-5), 4th in American East
  • No wins against ranked teams, and lost last six games

7. P.J. Fleck

  • Remained as head coach at Minnesota
  • Went 7-6 (3-6), tied for 5th in the Big 10 West
  • No wins against ranked teams

8. Justin Fuente

  • Remained at Virginia Tech as head coach
  • Went 6-7 (4-4), tied for 3rd in ACC Coastal
  • Beat No. 19 Florida State, No. 22 Duke

9. Jeff Brohm

  • Remained at Purdue for his second season
  • Went 6-7 (5-4) and tied for second in the Big 10 West
  • Beat No. 2 Ohio State, No. 16 Iowa, and No. 23 Boston College, but lost to Northwestern, Eastern Michigan, Missouri, Michigan State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Auburn, all unranked

10. Lane Kiffin

  • Remained at Florida Atlantic as head coach
  • Went 5-7 (3-5), 5th in C-USA East
  • No wins against ranked teams

11. Mike Bobo

  • Remained as head coach at Colorado State
  • Sidelined by health issues early, and team went 3-9 (2-6), 5th in MWC Mountain
  • Only wins were Arkansas, San Jose State, and New Mexico

Coordinators who stayed put

The following guys returned to their positions as coordinators last year.

1. Brent Venables

  • Remained at Clemson as DC
  • 5th nationally, 2nd in the ACC in total defense last year

2. Mel Tucker

  • Remained at Georgia as DC. Hired as head coach at Colorado for 2019.
  • 13th nationally and 2nd in the SEC in total defense last year

3. Kevin Steele

  • Remained at Auburn as defensive coordinator
  • 38th nationally and 8th in the SEC in total defense

4. Tee Martin

  • Remained at USC as OC; was released along with most of the staff in late November
  • 83rd nationally and 10th in the Pac-12 in total offense last season
  • Hired as a wide receivers coach at Tennessee

Alright. Time to fess up. Who did you want? How did they do?

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Andrew Cooper
Andrew Cooper
1 year ago

I’ve been happy with the Pruitt hire. However, I was pretty happy with Leach being thrown around too. Pruitt wasn’t in the picture then though.

Will Shelton
Will Shelton
1 year ago

I’m zero percent worried about Scott Frost, with four one-possession losses. Those guys are going to win a bunch of games. Brohm also lost four one-possession games, but those dudes were annihilated by Auburn in the bowl. I still think either of those two and obviously Dan Mullen would’ve been outstanding hires. Plenty of opportunity for Pruitt to join that group.

Ben Farr
Ben Farr
1 year ago

I wanted Mullen and would have been really happy with Leach. Pruitt is going to turn into a very good head coach if we can give him time I think. We may have gotten the steal of the bunch.