Phil Fulmer will “wipe the slate clean” on the Tennessee coaching search, according to Tony Basilio.
Fulmer plans on calling guys that have already turned down Tennessee, because he thinks some answers could change now that the Vols have some stability for the first time in a decade. Do not be surprised if you hear some big names being floated around over the next few days. Fulmer truly believes the Vols can land a big time coach, and you can take it to the bank that he will bust his tail trying to find one.
Basilio said Fulmer wants to talk to Gary Patterson and Justin Fuente early this week. Patterson just signed an extension with TCU, but that does not mean it is impossible for the Vols to steal him away from Ft. Worth. If the price is right, and Fulmer can convince Patterson he can win a championship in Knoxville, he might ditch the Frogs for the Vols.
Fuente laid the foundation for the Memphis Tigers football program. They were nothing when he got there, but he turned them around and then bolted for Virginia Tech two years ago. There is a connection between Fuente and Patterson. Fuente was Patterson’s co-offensive coordinator at TCU, and he helped turn Andy Dalton into an NFL ready quarterback.
As a head coach, Fuente’s record is 45-30, but he is an even better coach than that already good record would lead you to believe. He took over a Memphis team that was one of the worst teams in all of college football. The Tigers went 4-8 and 3-9 in his first two seasons, but after he got some of his own recruits on the field, Fuente turned it all around. In year 3, Memphis was 10-3 and beat BYU in the Miami Beach Bowl. In year 4, the Tigers upset Ole Miss on their way to a 9-3 season. He won the ACC Coastal division in his first year in Blacksburg, and he followed that up by leading the Hokies to a 9-3 record this season.
Many media outlets are reporting that Fulmer has been in contact with Les Miles. Miles won a national championship at LSU, but him being unwilling to change his offense ended up costing him his job in Baton Rouge last season. Miles has plenty of SEC experience and could lead the Tennessee football program back to the top if he can bring in a good offensive coordinator.
Reports came out Sunday night that Tee Martin would talk to Fulmer about leaving USC for UT to possibly be the offensive coordinator. A Les Miles, Tee Martin, and either John Chavis or Kevin Steele staff would kill it at Tennessee. The perfect scenario would be to name Tee Martin the coach in waiting, and let him serve as offensive coordinator for 3-5 years under Les Miles. The question is would Les Miles take the job knowing Tennessee only wants him for a few years?
I think Fulmer should give Jeff Brohm another call. It looked like Tennessee had struck a deal with Jeff Brohm last week, but the higher ups shot it down. Reports were that John Currie and Jeff Brohm agreed to a deal, but Chancellor Davenport thought it was too much money. When Currie offered Brohm less money he said thanks but no thanks. Brohm is one of the best offensive coaches in college football, and Fulmer should give him another call.
I personally think Fulmer should go after Washington State’s Mike Leach, but I don’t think Fulmer would ever do that. Leach’s quirkiness would be so much fun for Tennessee fans, but his high-powered offense would be even more fun. His air raid attack would break the scoreboard, but his defense would never be able to stop SEC offenses.
One more target Tennessee might be interested in is Kevin Sumlin. Texas A&M fired Sumlin right after their 7-5 season wrapped up last Saturday. Sumlin went 11-2 in his first season in College Station, but his record quickly dropped off. This year the Aggies were 7-5, but the last three seasons A&M was 8-4. Sumlin recruited Johnny Manziel, and the duo was able to upset Nick Saban at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Sumlin and UCF are rumored to have mutual interest in each other, but I find it hard to believe that Tennessee could not get him if they want him. Sumlin could help stabilize the on-field product, but do not expect a Sumlin led Tennessee team to compete for a national championship. He would not be Tennessee’s first choice, but he is still better than Schiano and Doeren.
It has been a quiet weekend in Knoxville, but that is a really good thing after the crazy week Tennessee has had. Look for things to heat up quickly this week. Fulmer would love to find his guy as soon as Monday or Tuesday with early signing day looming on December 20th.