Quick Bio: A Vol villain thanks to his time at Vanderbilt, James Franklin has earned the respect of college football fans everywhere with the job he’s done at Penn State. He took over a Nittany Lions program that was hampered by NCAA sanctions and has had them competing at an extremely high level over the last few years.
Pros: Franklin made a name for himself when he took Vanderbilt out of the SEC basement and into relevancy from 2011-13. He helped the Commodores earn back-to-back nine win seasons, which was something that had never been done at Vanderbilt. He took the job at Penn State in 2014 even amid their penalties and sanctions from the NCAA, and he’s built up a wildly successful program there. Penn State went 11-3 last season and are currently 8-2 this year.
Cons/Question: Franklin proved he wasn’t a flash in the pan at Vanderbilt with his efforts at Penn State. But would he want to return to the SEC? And would Tennessee be able to afford him with his buyout and already large salary at Penn State?
Quick Bio: Once a Vol villain, Lane Kiffin has once again found favor among Vol fans. Not all of them by any means, but a pretty sizable chunk of the fan base has forgiven Lane and seen the work he’s done with Florida Atlantic this season and think he would make a good coach in a return to Tennessee.
Pros: Kiffin seems to have matured a bit from his time at Tennessee back in 2009, and he had a success run at Alabama as an offensive coordinator and has put together a great first season as FAU’s head coach.
Cons/Questions: After bolting for USC after just one season with the Vols, many Vol fans swore to forever hate Kiffin. And you can’t imagine Tennessee’s administration would be all that willing to give him a second shot because of that and because of some of the NCAA issues Tennessee had to face in his brief tenure.
Quick Bio: Jimbo Fisher was once one of the kings of college football. He’s still one of the top 10 coaches in the NCAA, but his Florida State team this year has taken a massive step back because of an injury to his star quarterback and other issues. There’s speculation that there’s unrest at FSU as well, and some believe Fisher may be looking to get out.
Pros: Despite the down year this year, Fisher has had a stellar track record. He won a national title with the Seminoles and has taken them to the Chick Fil A/Peach Bowl twice, the Orange Bowl twice, and the Rose Bowl. He’s also coached some very good quarterbacks at Florida State.
Cons/Questions: Fisher would be extremely expensive, and there’s no guarantee he actually wants to leave FSU. Getting him would be a huge get, but it’s not very likely. But there aren’t a ton of questions about Fisher given his track record.