After a three-win season, the Tennessee Volunteers have fired Jeremy Pruitt. It happened very late in the coaching carousel, so Tennessee will not have the benefit of a wide-open market. Even so, here are five potential head coach candidates for the Tennessee Volunteers.
Note: Former Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is the acting head coach. He could end up being named head coach, but these are some other candidates for Tennessee to look at.
1. Luke Fickell
One of the last times Tennessee needed a coach, they went after a Cincinnati coach in Butch Jones. Now Cincinnati has another coach that is worth looking at for all big-time schools. Luke Fickell has had three really good seasons in a row for the Bearcats. Over those three seasons, the team has made a New Year’s Six Bowl and has won 31 games.
The biggest question of Fickell will be whether he can recruit in the SEC, as he only has experience coaching in Ohio. Ohio State did recruit nationally, so he should be able to get the job done. Fickell has turned jobs down before and may be waiting for the right opportunity before leaving Cincinnati.
2. Billy Napier
Another coach who has been up for several jobs this offseason is Billy Napier. Napier has been coaching Louisiana for three years and has specifically done really well over the last two seasons. He has appeared in two bowl games and posted a 28-11 record over his time with the Ragin’ Cajuns.
If Tennessee is looking for a coach who can recruit the south and not have any NCAA violations, Napier could be their guy. He has shown that he can win and to top things off, Napier is from Tennessee. The Volunteers should at least have Napier on their shortlist.
3. Jamey Chadwell
Coastal Carolina had a historic year by going 11-1 with their only loss coming in the Cure Bowl. What makes it even more impressive is that the Chanticleers have only been at the FBS level for a handful of seasons. Jamey Chadwell has done a phenomenal job for Coastal Carolina and it will be hard for him to replicate that success.
Like Napier, Chadwell is from Tennessee, which could entice him to take the job. He also has experience coaching and recruiting in the south. The Volunteers want a coach who can win and can not get into trouble with the NCAA and Chadwell has proven to be able to do both.
4. Bill Clark
One of the best coaches in all of college football in the last several years is Bill Clark. He has been bowl-eligible in every year as UAB’s head coach. What makes that amazing is the fact that Clark did that once in 2014 before the program was stopped and he did it again in for the last four seasons after the program came back.
For Tennessee to win in the SEC, they will need a coach that can get the most out of his players and facilities. Clark had fewer resources than any coach when UAB came back to college football in 2017. He has sustained that success for the last few seasons as well, without a run in with the NCAA.
5. Hugh Freeze
Hugh Freeze has been a successful coach at Arkansas State, Liberty and Ole Miss. With Liberty he has an 18-6 record in two seasons. The Flames won 10 games this season and they won the Cure Bowl. With three successful stops at the collegiate level, Freeze has proven he can coach.
Freeze has proven to be successful at the SEC level when he was at Ole Miss, which will appeal to Tennessee. Because the Volunteers are worried about NCAA violations, they will need to be cautious if they hire Freeze, as NCAA violations were part of the reason he was fired.
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