Thursday, November 29, 2012

0 Well, now who should be Tennessee's next head coach?

By Kenny Howell and Shaee Flatt

Jon Gruden to UT talk seems to be quieting as cancelled meetings and public denials make it seem less likely that Chucky Checkerboards (trademark if it already hasn't been) will become a reality. So where does UT turn to now? Four names seem to come up quite a bit and one other is lingering right now. They are Jimbo Fisher, Al Golden, Charlie Strong, Larry Fedora and Butch Jones. All five candidates are close, and none really get you excited or depressed. Indifference for everyone! Kenny and Shaee rank where they think UT should turn their attention.

Kenny's rankings

1. Jimbo Fisher

I have my reservations about Fisher because of his tendency to lose games he should win. However, he has put his team in a place where they can contend for championships, which no other coach on this last has. However, does he really want to leave a team that is near the top to one that needs help getting there.

2. Larry Fedora

When Fedora's name was first mentioned, I was dismissive. But when you look at his body of work, it is pretty solid. He has a 42-23 record as a Head Coach at Southern Miss and North Carolina. He currently has the No. 20 recruiting class in the nation at North Carolina, which is not the easiest place to recruit, but not necessarily the hardest either. My knock would be that he is offensive minded, and Tennessee probably needs a defensive guy at this point. Plus, he will probably take some time to get it together. And, would he leave UNC after just one year, Lane Kiffin style.

3. Butch Jones

Probably the name that is not getting mentioned the least of these five, but could be a really good hire. He has followed Brian Kelly everywhere and has maintained good success, although not quite on Kelly's level. He is 49-27 as a Head Coach. He is not the greatest recruiter, as Cincy sits at No. 50 right now, but he does have some positives. And he would probably leave Cincinnati. But you wonder if he has benefited from good situations left by Kelly.

4. Charlie Strong

Strong has been mentioned for a lot of SEC jobs, but I think his past SEC experience as an assistant makes him look better than he actually is. He is only 23-14 at Louisville, and they still are losing to teams they should beat this season. A bigger knock would be that he is currently No. 72 in the nation in recruiting, behind the likes of San Diego State, Temple and Tulane. With Ohio close by and past ties to the southeast, it should be higher, even at Louisville. He is willing to bolt it seems as well.

5. Al Golden

Golden could be great, but the fact that he has been in terrible situations doesn't help his cause. I think he has the chance of being a terrific coach, but we can't be sure. He is 40-45 as a Head Coach. If you take out his first three years at Temple, which was a terrible program at the time, he is 30-19 there and in his first two seasons in Miami. However, in maybe the most fertile recruiting state in the nation, he is 54th in the nation in recruiting. A lot of that has to do with Miami's trouble with the NCAA, but he should be Top 25 even with the trouble. He has said that he will absolutely be at Miami next year, so is he really willing to leave?

Shaee's rankings

1. Al Golden

Golden at number one may surprise people, but unless the new coach is Jon Gruden, I would really prefer a coach with a 3-4 defensive background. Golden did a great job as Virginia’s defensive coordinator from 2001-2004, improving their total defense ranking from 108 to 18 nationally over that time. He struggled early on at Temple, but who wouldn’t? He took over a terrible situation going 1-11 in his first year, but his last two seasons he went a combined 17-8... At TEMPLE. Impressive. He’s had an impressive two years at Miami, if you consider their NCAA problems right now, and is loved by the fan base down there for a reason. At just 43 years old, Golden is a guy that could be at Tennessee for a long time.

2. Jimbo Fisher

Fisher is a huge name on the recruiting trail, and could bring some elite talent to Tennessee. He has connections all over the Southeast, mainly Florida, and would restore NFL talent to the roster without a doubt. However, even with an elite roster at Florida State he has lost quite a few games that he shouldn’t have lost in a very weak ACC conference. Life would be much tougher for Fisher in the SEC, and I’m not convinced he’d be able to handle it. Plus, it really seems that Fisher will either head to Auburn, or stay put in Tallahassee. I don’t think Tennessee has as good a shot here as some might suggest.

3. Butch Jones

Extremely tough call placing Jones over Fedora, but age was probably the deciding factor. They have about the same amount of HC experience, and Jones is 6 years younger. Jones struggled his first year at Cincinnati which makes you wonder because the roster Brian Kelly left behind wasn’t that bad. However, the last two seasons he has the Bearcats at an impressive 18-6. He was also 27-13 during his time at Central Michigan. I think he’d need to make a very good defensive coordinator hire to be successful but assuming he could do that, I’d give him a chance at Tennessee.

4. Larry Fedora

Fedora has a great offensive mind, but like Jones, he’d need to make a very good defensive coordinator hire to be successful. He’s never coached a losing season though, and that is something I think all Vol fans could appreciate right now. Also, take a look at Southern Miss this season. Ouch. Worse hires could be made for sure.

5. Charlie Strong

It will probably surprise quite a few people that I have Strong last on my list, so let me explain. Of the five candidates Strong has proved the least as a Head Coach. Strong had some good defensive units during his time at Florida, but also had some mediocre ones. He’s improved Louisville, but 4-2 in Big East play during his third year just doesn’t impress me like it seems to impress some people. He’s also struggled a bit with recruiting, as Louisville has just nine commitments this season. He’d probably recruit a lot better at Tennessee, but he’d need to coach a lot better too. He’s 52, but Head Coaching experience wise, I just think it’s too early for Strong to have a top tier SEC coaching job.


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