KNOXVILLE — Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart won't be taking any public input on his search for Tennessee's next head football coach, but that won't stop the speculation.
Here are a handful of candidates who are sure to be mentioned in the coming days and weeks:
(In alphabetical order)
-- Duke coach David Cutcliffe. The former Tennessee offensive coordinator and Ole Miss head coach would be welcomed back home by many members of the UT fan base, but others would prefer to go in a new direction rather than a return to the past.
-- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. He’s got a plum gig at FSU, but he’s also got a new boss. The resulting power play could push Fisher’s name into the picture for jobs at Tennessee, Auburn or elsewhere.
-- Miami (Fla.) coach Al Golden. If Golden wants to jump ship from the NCAA-plagued Hurricanes program, he could have plenty of landing opportunities.
-- ESPN Monday Night Football commentator Jon Gruden: Sure, it seems like a longshot, and it probably is. But if Gruden decides he wants to coach in the college game, a place like Tennessee makes more sense than any other destination.
-- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. If Gundy ever decides to leave his alma mater, he should have plenty of suitors.
-- Texas Christian coach Gary Patterson. A well-respected defensive coach, Patterson has built TCU into a powerhouse, but he has rebuffed several offers to leave. With TCU now in a BCS conference, that seems unlikely to change.
-- Former Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino. Despite his disgraceful exit from Arkansas, Petrino is going to land somewhere this offseason -- and whoever hires him will be getting one of the top coaches in the country.
-- Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. He’ll be a hot coaching candidate for other schools, but given Derek Dooley and Sal Sunseri’s struggles, Tennessee will probably seek a proven head coach without ties to Nick Saban.
-- Louisville coach Charlie Strong. He figures to be one of the hottest coaching candidates in the nation, although Louisville has said it will do whatever it takes to keep him in the fold. A former defensive coordinator at South Carolina and Florida, Strong is 23-13 in three seasons at Louisville.
— Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel