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Derek Dooley was fired as Tennessee's head coach on Sunday.
After Saturday’s 41-18 loss to Vanderbilt, Tennessee decided to pull the plug on the Derek Dooley era. Dooley went 6-7 in his first season in Knoxville but went 9-14 over the next two years. Also, the Volunteers were just 4-19 in SEC play under his watch and was off to a 0-7 start in 2012. Dooley didn’t inherit a full cupboard to work with in 2010, but the program hasn’t made considerable progress under his watch.
15 Coaching Candidates to Replace Derek Dooley at Tennessee
Sonny Dykes, head coach, Louisiana Tech – Dykes is one of the hottest names for BCS vacancies this offseason. The Texas native is 22-14 in three years at Louisiana Tech and has previous SEC experience at Kentucky in 1997 and 1999. Dykes also has stops as an assistant at Texas Tech and Arizona. Even though Dykes has proven he is a good coach, would Tennessee shy away from hiring someone else from Louisiana Tech?
Larry Fedora, head coach, North Carolina – Fedora is just in his first season at North Carolina, but he is a name to watch in this coaching search. An ongoing academic scandal prior to Fedora’s arrival is a concern, especially if the NCAA decides to get involved. Fedora went 34-19 in four seasons at Southern Miss, leading the Golden Eagles to four bowl games. The Texas native is 7-4 in his first season at North Carolina and has previous SEC experience with a stint as Florida’s offensive coordinator from 2002-04.
Al Golden, head coach, Miami – Considering the NCAA hammer is about to drop on Miami, Golden may look to escape for a better job this offseason. The New Jersey native has spent most of his career on the East Coast, playing for Penn State from 1987-91 and coaching as an assistant at Virginia, Boston College and Penn State. Golden resurrected Temple and led the Owls to a 17-8 record during his final two years in Philadelphia. Miami is just 11-11 in his two years, but the program did not have an abundance of talent when he arrived.
Jon Gruden, former NFL head coach – Gruden’s name has been mentioned prominently among Tennessee fans over the last year. The former NFL head coach has some connections to Rocky Top, as he worked as a graduate assistant in Knoxville from 1986-87 and his wife went to Tennessee. Gruden went 95-81 during his time in the NFL, which included a Super Bowl victory in 2002. He is also highly regarded for his work on offense, but the West Coast offense is a difficult scheme to implement in college. Two key questions for Tennessee to ponder: Would Gruden enjoy recruiting? How about the lure of the NFL: Would he stick around for five years?
Related Content: 5 Reasons Why Jon Gruden Would Be a Bad Fit at Tennessee
Darrell Hazell, head coach, Kent State – Hazell has only been a head coach for two seasons, but he has clearly made a difference at Kent State. In two years with the Golden Flashes, Hazell is 15-8 and won the MAC East title in 2012. Before coming to Kent State, the New Jersey native made stops as an assistant at Western Michigan, Army, West Virginia, Rutgers and Ohio State. Hazell has no experience in the SEC but is a rising star in the coaching ranks.
Kliff Kingsbury, offensive coordinator, Texas A&M – Kingsbury has helped to coordinate one of the nation’s top offenses this season and oversaw the development of Johnny Manziel. He also thrived as an offensive coordinator at Houston and played under Bill Belichick during his NFL career. The only downside to Kingsbury? He has no head coaching experience.
Mike MacIntyre, head coach, San Jose State – MacIntyre has turned San Jose State into one of the WAC’s worst teams into a bowl team in just three years. The Spartans went 1-12 in 2010, improved to 5-7 in 2011 and have climbed to 9-2 this season. MacIntyre has stops as an assistant at Temple, Ole Miss, Duke and in the NFL with the Cowboys and Jets. MacIntyre isn’t a flashy or a big name, but as the results have shown at San Jose State, he’s capable of leading a BCS program.
Gus Malzahn, head coach, Arkansas State – Malzahn has made a quick rise through the coaching ranks. The Texas native was a high school head coach in 2005 and joined Arkansas’ coaching staff in 2006. After one season in Fayetteville, Malzahn joined Tulsa and spent two years working under Todd Graham. Malzahn moved to Auburn in 2009 and was a key piece in the Tigers’ national championship. Arkansas State is 8-3 in Malzahn’s first season and as expected, ranks near the top of the Sun Belt in scoring, passing, total and rushing offense. The only downside to Malzahn? Only one year of head coaching experience on the collegiate level.
Dan Mullen, head coach, Mississippi State – Even though Mullen has yet to beat Alabama or LSU during his tenure in Starkville, there’s no doubt Mississippi State is an improved team. The Bulldogs will be making their third consecutive bowl appearance in 2012 and has a 13-18 mark in SEC play over the last four years. Mullen also has assistant experience from stops at Bowling Green, Notre Dame, Utah and Florida. Considering what Mullen has done in four years at Mississippi State, he could thrive at a program with more resources.
Bobby Petrino, former Arkansas head coach – There’s no question Petrino is the most polarizing name in coaching searches this offseason. Petrino has been successful at each of his stops in college, leading Louisville to a 41-9 mark in four years and a 34-17 record in four seasons at Arkansas. The Montana native is highly regarded for his work with quarterbacks and offenses and has four years of NFL experience. While those are the positives, Petrino had a messy exit from Arkansas after lying to athletic director Jeff Long about the details of a motorcycle crash in late March. Petrino has already indicated he is ready to work and considering what happened at Arkansas, it’s a safe bet he doesn’t make the same mistakes that ended his tenure in Fayetteville.
Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator, Alabama – Although Smart is due for his shot to run a program, you have to wonder if Tennessee will shy away from hiring another Nick Saban assistant after firing Derek Dooley. Smart is well-versed in the SEC, as he was born in Alabama, played at Georgia and has made stops as an assistant at LSU, Georgia and Alabama.
Mark Stoops, defensive coordinator, Florida State – Stoops is one of the nation’s best assistants and like Kirby Smart, it’s only a matter of time before he gets a chance to become a head coach. Stoops made stops as an assistant at South Florida, Wyoming, Houston, Miami and Arizona before coming to Florida State. The Seminoles have been one of the nation’s top defenses during his watch in Tallahassee, which includes a No. 1 overall rank in 2012.
Charlie Strong, head coach, Louisville – Even though Strong has mentioned he his committed to Louisville, the uncertainty surrounding the Big East could be enough to make a move. Strong has been a home-run hire for Louisville, leading the Cardinals to a 23-13 mark during his three seasons. He also has SEC experience, spending time at Florida, Ole Miss and South Carolina. Strong’s recruiting connections in Florida would be appealing for any athletic director, while his background on defense has to be attractive for Tennessee after the disastrous 2012 season.
Willie Taggart, head coach, Western Kentucky – Taggart was one of the hottest names in the coaching rumor mill earlier this season, especially after Western Kentucky opened 5-1 with a win over Kentucky. However, the Hilltoppers have tailed off in recent weeks, losing their last three games and dropping to 6-5 overall. Despite the recent setback, Taggart is a good coach and will get a chance to run a BCS program in the near future.
Tommy Tuberville, head coach, Texas Tech – Tuberville already has two tours of duty through the SEC, coaching at Ole Miss from 1995-98 and at Auburn in 1999-2008. In four seasons with the Rebels, he recorded a 25-20 mark and went 85-40 at Auburn. Tuberville is 20-15 in three seasons at Texas Tech and has the Red Raiders back on track after a 5-7 mark in 2011. Tuberville isn’t flashy, but he’s a proven winner and a steady option for Tennessee.
Other Names to Watch
David Cutcliffe, head coach, Duke – Cutcliffe is a name that’s certainly familiar around Knoxville. He worked as an assistant coach in Knoxville from 1982-98 and then again from 2006-07. Cutcliffe has two stops as a head coach, working from 1998-2004 at Ole Miss with a 44-29 mark. Since 2008, Cutcliffe has been the head coach at Duke and led the Blue Devils to their first bowl game since 1994 this season. Cutcliffe isn’t a flashy hire but has previous experience at Tennessee and is highly regarded for his work with quarterbacks. However, Cutcliffe has mentioned he is committed to staying at Duke for 2013.
Pete Lembo, head coach, Ball State – Lembo has been a consistent winner at three different stops, posting a 44-14 mark at Lehigh, a 35-22 record at Elon and a 14-9 mark in two seasons at Ball State. He’s ready for a shot to run a BCS program.
Gary Patterson, head coach, TCU – The rumor mill will throw Patterson’s name out there, but he’s not leaving TCU.
Todd Monken, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State – Monken has never been a head coach but over the last two years, has helped to coordinate one of the nation’s best offenses at Oklahoma State.
Chad Morris, offensive coordinator, Clemson - Morris has emerged as one of the top offensive minds in college football, leading Clemson's offense to an average of 44.6 points a game this season. Morris has no head coaching experience and already has a salary of $1.3 million, so it would take a significant raise to leave Clemson.
Brent Pease, offensive coordinator, Florida – Pease is a long-time assistant that is expected to get into the mix for a head coaching job this offseason. He has stops as an assistant at Kentucky, Baylor, Boise State and Florida.
by Steven Lassan
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