Report: Vols Have “Multiple New Targets” in OC Search

    by -

    (Photo via Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle)

    When it comes to Tennessee’s offensive coordinator search, former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze has been the name on everyone’s mind. But according to a report, Freeze to Tennessee has been “quashed,” and there are a few new candidates for Vol fans to keep an eye on.

    According to long-time Knoxville media member John Brice, “UT powers” nixed any potential hire of Hugh Freeze, but he’s reporting that three other coaches and an unnamed SEC coach are the most likely targets for Tennessee according to “five sources with direct knowledge of Tennessee’s interests.”

    The three known names, according to Brice, are Houston offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, and Troy head coach Neal Brown.

    As Brice points out, Brown and Pruitt know each other from working in the state of Alabama, and Briles did just receive a new contract extension that significantly raised his buyout total at Houston. Brice also notes that Alabama quarterbacks coach Dan Enos is very like to remain on staff at Alabama.

    Brown was actually a name that surfaced during Tennessee’s head coaching search last offseason. He’s been at Troy since 2015 and has had a ton of success leading the Trojans. After a 4-8 campaign in his first year as head coach, he led Troy to a 10-3 record in 2016 and an 11-2 mark in 2017. Troy is currently 9-3 this season and will be playing Buffalo in the Dollar General Bowl.

    The 38-year-old coach also coached wide receivers at Troy from 2006-07 and was promoted to their offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach position in 2008. He took the same title at Texas Tech in 2010 and stayed with the Red Raiders till 2012. He was hired as Kentucky’s OC and quarterbacks coach in 2013 and was there until he took the Troy head coaching position.

    Yurcich has been the play-caller and quarterbacks coach for Oklahoma State since 2013, and he’s had a great deal of success with the Cowboys. Oklahoma State has ranked inside the top 25 in the FBS in total offensive yards per game every year since 2015, and that includes finishing with the No. 2 total offense in the country in 2017.

    Briles might be the most interesting name on Brice’s list, but not for a good reason.

    Briles runs an electrifying offense and is known for his creative play-calling. Houston’s offense currently ranks fourth in the country in points per game and sixth in yards per game, and his Florida Atlantic offense ranked in the top 10 in both categories in 2017 as well.

    But it’s Briles’ time at Baylor that makes him a questionable hire.

    While Briles had success as a play-caller and quarterbacks coach at Baylor, he was tied to the massive scandal at Baylor that happened between 2011 and 2014. According a lawsuit filed in 2017, there were allegedly more than 50 instances of rape committed by 31 different football players from 2011 through 2014. Many Baylor’s coaches were cited for creating a toxic culture around the football program in the allegations.

    According to the lawsuit, “The Baylor coaching staff used a ‘show ‘em a good time’ approach in recruiting, which allegedly included taking recruits to strip clubs, making girls in Baylor’s hostess program available for sex, and using drugs and alcohol.”

    While Kendal Briles was never directly implicated in the lawsuit, the lawsuit and other sex scandals cost his father, Art, his job as head coach at Baylor.

    If Tennessee wouldn’t sign off on Hugh Freeze for his past transgressions, it seems unlikely they would be okay with hiring Briles either. But he’s one of the names told to Brice by his sources.

    As for the unnamed SEC offensive coordinator, that could be any number of coaches. Here’s a list of every SEC school’s current OC:

    Alabama: N/A (Mike Locksley accepted head coaching job at Maryland)
    Arkansas: Joe Craddock
    Auburn: N/A (Chip Lindsey accepted OC job at Kansas)
    Florida: John Hevesy/Billy Gonzales
    Georgia: Jim Chaney
    Kentucky: Eddie Gran
    LSU: Steve Ensminger
    Ole Miss: Phil Longo
    Mississippi State: Luke Getsy
    Missouri: Derek Dooley
    South Carolina: Bryan McClendon
    Texas A&M: Darrell Dickey
    Vanderbilt: Andy Ludwig

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.