Worthy of a call
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe
Cutcliffe will forever be tied to the Tennessee job when it opens up after his work with Peyton Manning and his job helping guide the Vols to a National Championship in 1998. The head football coach at Duke is 68-years old but could stabilize the program similar to the way Rick Barnes has with the Vols’ basketball program.
Under Cutcliffe, Duke has reached heights that the program had never been before. Cutcliffe led the Blue Devils to their first bowl game for the first time in 28-years in 2012 by beating arch-rival North Carolina. He then led Duke to a second straight bowl appearance, another win over the Tar Heels, an ACC Coastal Division championship and the first 10-win season in school history in 2013.
Cutcliffe is 118-117 as a head coach during his career that has featured stops in Durham and with Ole Miss from 1998-2004. He nearly became head coach after Lane Kiffin bolted for USC in 2009. Could he now become the Vols’ head coach during desperate times on Rocky Top?
Indiana head coach Tom Allen
Allen had tremendous success this season at Indiana. The Hoosiers went 6-2 after beginning the season with a win over No. 8 Penn State. He also led them to their first win over Michigan in 33 years before finishing the regular season ranked seventh in the AP Poll, eighth in the Coaches Poll, and eleventh in the College Football Playoff rankings as Indiana earned a bid to the Outback Bowl. Allen was named the Big 10 Coach of the Year following the season.
He previously served as the defensive coordinator at Indiana and South Florida after spending time as an assistant coach at Ole Miss, Arkansas State, and Drake. Allen came up as a high school coach in his home state of Indiana.
New England Patriots ILB coach Jerod Mayo
The former Tennessee linebacker recently interviewed for the Philadelphia Eagles’ head coaching vacancy despite only having two years of coaching experience under his belt. Mayo was a Pro Bowl linebacker and Super Bowl champion with the Patriots before joining Bill Belichick’s staff as inside linebackers coach in 2019. He has quickly established himself as a promising up-and-coming coach. Although it feels early for Mayo to get a head coaching job, he’s worthy of a phone call.
Mayo was drafted by the Patriots No. 10 overall in the 2008 NFL Draft. He won the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award following a tremendous four-year career in Knoxville.
Former Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn
Malzahn is an intriguing candidate for many reasons. He’s one of the few coaches who have had success against Nick Saban over the last decade and he’s competed for multiple national championships during that time period. But Malzahn does have serious red flags within his offense, specifically with his lack of development at the quarterback position. Tennessee isn’t in a spot where it can be too picky, but it is something to consider.
He came up through the high school ranks before accepting the offensive coordinator job at Arkansas in 2006. Malzahn parlayed his success with Darren McFadden into the head coaching job at Tulsa before becoming the OC at Auburn where he won a National Championship with Cam Newton at quarterback. Malzahn then took the Arkansas State job before returning to Auburn to be head coach. He was 68-35 over the course of eight seasons on the Plains with two seasons of at least 10-wins.
Former Texas head coach Tom Herman
Herman is as interesting of a candidate as Malzahn. He is a supposed offensive guru, and that showed during his time at Houston, but his time as Texas’ head coach did not go well at all. Questions surrounding Herman’s personality have come up recently meaning Tennessee would have to decide whether or not it’s willing to take on a coach with potential baggage.
The Cincinatti native went 22-4 during his two seasons at Houston before going 32-18 over four seasons at Texas. He won more than eight games once at Texas, going 10-4 in 2018.
Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell
Whether or not Fickell will be interested in the job is one question, but Tennessee should absolutely give him a phone call. Fickell has done a tremendous job at Cincinatti, particularly this past season leading the Bearcats to a potential college football playoff bid. Their only loss came to Georgia in the Peach Bowl following back-to-back 11 win seasons.
Fickell has deep ties to Ohio State. He played nose guard for the Buckeyes from 1993-1996 and was an assistant coach at his alma mater from 2002-2016, serving in multiple roles whether it be linebackers coach, co-defensive coordinator, special teams coach or interim head coach.
Army head coach Jeff Monken
Fans will be scared away by the triple option, but Monken isn’t married to the triple option. If Monken assured Tennessee that he wouldn’t run that style of offense, he’s more than worthy of a phone call. Monken has done an exceptional job at a place where it is extremely hard to win and could be just what the Vols need.
Monken would immediately fix the culture and help steady the ship. His players love playing for him as he is a true leader, which is why he has been so successful at Army. Despite going 4-8 and 2-10 during his first two seasons at the academy, he then won 10-games in back-to-back seasons. He won nine games this past season and is 49-39 during his time at Army. His offenses get all of the attention because of its uniqueness, but Monken’s defense has been even better.
Prior to his time at Army, Monken guided Georgia Southern from the FCS to FBS. He went 38-16 during his time at Southern with three seasons of at least 10-wins and he even upset Florida in 2013.
Charlotte head coach Will Healy
It doesn’t seem likely that Healy would receive a phone call, but it would make sense if he did. Healy is a Chattanooga native who won the Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year in 2017 as he led Austin Peay to a 7-1 OVC record after the team was 0-11 in his first season the year prior.
Healy played quarterback at Richmond under former Tennessee OC Dave Clawson. He led the Spiders to the FCS National Championship in 2008 before beginning his coaching career at Tennessee-Chattanooga. Healy spent six seasons with the Mocs before taking the Governors’ head coaching job in 2016.
He went 7-6 in his first season with Charlotte last year. It was Charlotte’s first winning season and first season that resulted in a bowl game.
Go to the next page to see which candidates are long shots to get the job.