Pros and Cons of Every Tennessee Head Coaching Candidate

Tennessee finally did what fans were calling for since October, they fired Jeremy Pruitt. Not only did they axe Pruitt, AD Phillip Fulmer "retired". Now this comes after an investigation for serious recruiting violations. Apparently, this is because Tennessee hosted a paintball game that was sponsored by someone outside of the university, and they handed recruits money in McDonald's bags during visits. Tennessee now has a double digit amount of open coaching spots, plus an AD spot. UAB AD Mark Ingram seems to be in the lead for that AD spot, but anything is possible for the head coaching job. The coaches below are listed in order from most likely to least likely.

Tom Herman

Born: June 2, 1975 (age 45)

Alma Mater: Cal Lutheran and University of Texas at Austin

Head Coaching Record: 54-22

Bowl Record: 5-0

Teams Coached: Texas, Houston

Current Job: N/A

Pros: Herman has a proven track record of winning, shown by his W-L. He has also not lost in a bowl game before, and can recruit in the Big 12.

Cons: Herman has not coached in the SEC before, and has basically spent his career in the state of Texas. We also don't know if he can recruit in the SEC or not.

Gus Malzahn

Born: October 28, 1965 (age 55)

Alma Mater: Arkansas and Henderson State

Head Coaching Record: 77-38

Bowl Record: 2-5

Teams Coached: Arkansas State and Auburn

Current Job: N/A

Pros: Has a proven track record of being able to recruit and coach in the SEC. Has won an SEC title. His defensive coordinator in 2020 is currently a defensive assistant at Tennessee.

Cons: Poor Bowl Record

Jamey Chadwell

Born: c. 1977 (age 43–44)

Alma Mater: East Tennessee State University

Head Coaching Record: 79-52

Bowl Record: 1-1

Teams Coached: North Greenville, Delta State, Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina

Current Job: Coastal Carolina Football Head Coach

Pros: Knows how to win with less, led Coastal to a surprise Top 15 and one loss season, Tennessee native

Cons: Unproven at a high level, 2 years of losing before winning at Coastal, runs an offense that just doesn't work in the SEC

Hugh Freeze

Born: September 27, 1969 (age 51)

Alma Mater: Southern Mississippi

Head Coaching Record: 60-38

Bowl Record: 3-2

Teams Coached: Lambuth, Arkansas State, Ole Miss, Liberty

Current Job: Liberty Football Head Coach

Pros: Has SEC experience, proved he could win in SEC, Has coached HS football in Tennessee and has snuck into Neyland Stadium during his honeymoon, coached Liberty to a one-loss season in 2020

Cons: Fired in 2016 due to recruiting violations, so would it be a good idea to hire him for a program that's in recruiting violation trouble right now?

Kevin Steele

Born: March 17, 1958 (age 62)

Alma Mater: Furman and Tennessee

Head Coaching Record: 9-37

Bowl Record: 0-1

Teams Coached: Baylor, Auburn (interim), Tennessee (interim)

Current Job: Tennessee Interim Head Coach/Defensive Assistant

Pros: Proved he is a defensive mastermind

Cons: Has a very bad record, not the best coach for the future as he is 62

Billy Napier

Born: July 21, 1979 (age 41)

Alma Mater: Furman

Head Coaching Record: 28-11

Bowl Record: 2-1

Teams Coached: Louisiana

Current Job: Louisiana-Lafayette Football Head Coach

Pros: Has been an assistant at both Clemson and Alabama, has developed Louisiana into a regular Sun Belt contender, Tennessee native

Cons: Has no Power 5 head coaching experience

Tony Elliott

Born: November 26, 1979 (age 41)

Alma Mater: Clemson

Head Coaching Record: 0-0

Bowl Record: 0-0

Teams Coached: None

Current Job: Clemson Offensive Coordinator

Pros: Has developed a very good offense at Clemson

Cons: No college HC experience, could become head coach at Clemson soon if Dabo leaves for the NFL

Luke Fickell

Born: August 18, 1973 (age 47)

Alma Mater: Ohio State

Head Coaching Record: 41-21

Bowl Record: 2-2

Teams Coached: Ohio State (interim), Cincinnati

Current Job: Cincinnati Football Head Coach

Pros: Led Cincinnati to a Top 10 season, has coaching experience at a high level, can recruit for Cincinnati in Big Ten territory

Cons: The Vols already struck and failed at hiring a Cincy coach (Butch Jones), Will Fickell really leave a top 10 Cincy team for a low-level Tennessee team that is about 2-3 levels worse than Cincy? Name brand matters if your Tennessee but not enough to sway Fickell away from Cincinnati

Bill O'Brien

Born: October 23, 1969 (age 51)

Alma Mater: Brown

Head Coaching Record: 15-9 (college) 54-52 (NFL)

Bowl Record: 0-0

Teams Coached: Penn State, Houston Texans

Current Job: Alabama Offensive Coordinator

Pros: Brought Penn State back to superiority after major recruiting violations, offensive mastermind, knows how to develop players

Cons: Just hired by Bama, hasn't coached in college for a long time

OTHER NAMES TO WATCH: Lane Kiffin, Jeff Fisher, Jason Witten

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