Alex Golesh is headed to be USF’s new Head Coach, and Josh Heupel is now tasked with replacing his first coordinator since arriving on Rocky Top. The news regarding Golesh just broke moments ago, so we are taking the time to make a quick reaction hot board based on individuals we believe, in our opinion, could be potential candidates.
This would be the quick, simple hire for Heupel, and it would certainly make plenty of sense. Halzle has been with Heupel for essentially the entirety of his coaching career, he knows the ins and outs of the Vols offense, and it makes sense for him to coach quarterbacks and serve as OC as well. Halzle is responsible for bring in Nico Iamaleava, who is tabbed as being the future of Tennessee's offense, so it is also likely Halzle wants to stick around to coach the most physically gifted signal-caller he has ever recruited. Off initial gut, one would have to almost think Halzle would be the betting favorite.
Anthony Tucker, Utah State
Tucker, who spent time with Heupel at UCF, serving as his passing game coordinator, co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach would make a lot of sense as well. He knows the offense, is another rising star, and he has been successful as an OC since making the moving to Utah State. Recruiting at this level would be a key question, but one that all of Heupel’s inaugural staff minus Rodney Garner had to answer.
Brian Hartline, Ohio State
Speaking of rising stars, there isn't a bigger name in those ranks than Brian Hartline. Hartline's name had been mentioned for the Cincinatti job at one point, but we do not believe that got too far down the line. Hartline is currently the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator in Columbus and makes 950k. At worst, Tennessee makes him say no and gets him a raise. At best, you get an elite recruiter, who is another future star in the business and has been a thorn in your side on the recruiting trail. This is just more of a personal thought on who I would call, and I am sure it is a name that has gotten plenty of thoughts across the country. There are no known connections in this one, but there is plenty of intrigue with him.
Long was at Georgia Tech until new Head Coach Brent Key relieved him of his duties shortly after being hired. Still, Long seemed to have more success as the OC after Geoff Collins was fired this season. He has a strong history as a tight ends coach, so he could fill the void left behind by Golesh in that phase, but that would certainly not be the deciding factor. As Tennessee could bring in anyone on this list and make a run at Long as tight ends coach if they wanted. He is a guy that it would be easy to see Josh Heupel vetting.
Phil Longo, North Carolina
Longo's name has been mentioned for the Auburn and Texas A&M offensive coordinator, and it is easy to see why, as he has not disappointed since taking over at North Carolina in 2019. Now, Auburn makes a lot of sense, as Longo and Freeze worked together in the same capacity at Ole Miss. Still, the Tigers have a clear rebuild in front of them, and it is possible the 54 year old Longo is looking for a quick stepping stone to make a run at being a head coach in some capacity. If that is the case, then him showing interest in the Tennessee job would make some sense. Again, these are all early speculations, but there is plenty to like about Longo so far.
Jeff Lebby, Oklahoma
Lebby left Lane Kiffin last off-season to return to his alma mater, Oklahoma, to call plays for first-year Head Coach Brent Venables. It would probably be hard to pull Lebby out of Oklahoma, and Tennessee might not want to spend the money, but the Sooners offense struggled this past season and appears to be a major work in progress. For Lebby, who is viewed as a rising star as well, a reunion with Josh Heupel could certainly get him back on track. Now, there has to be some question of if there is strain around this relationship as Lebby left Heupel to go call plays for Kiffin, but it would also be foolish to rule this out. Lebby spent two years with Heupel at UCF, including serving as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator in 2019.