Tennessee announced the AD hire of Danny White earlier this week, and his focus is now on finding a new head coach. We at VR2 on SI believe the hiring of White changes the landscape of Tennessee's coaching search, which is why our second coaching search hot board is a little unorthodox, as White has ran an almost silent search. Below we list our candidates for the job (in no particular order) and what we know about each to this point.
We haven't heard much buzz here to speak of, but if Tennessee is playing with big money, then hiring Matt Campbell away from Iowa State makes all of the sense in the world. Campbell is content at Iowa State, but again, money talks. He has a track record of winning with less. His only losing season is from his first year at Iowa State, and he significantly elevated the Toledo program before that. He has been the Big12 Coach of the Year on multiple occasions, and he has a knack for beating the conference giants such as Texas and Oklahoma. Sources on our end have indicated that Campbell is more open to listening to big-time offers than he has been in the past, but they also indicate that he could be waiting for a certain job in the mid-west to come open. But money talks, and Tennessee made a compelling pitch to Danny White, can it do the same with Campbell?
Chadwell has an obvious interest in the job. We can report that without hesitation, that he would embrace a homecoming of sorts, but it seems unlikely that he is a top-tier candidate. Given the outline Randy Boyd and Donde Plowman laid out for Tennessee's next head coach, Chadwell does not meet the criteria. Is he a fall-back option? Certainly, but he is going to need some breaks to go his way, in my opinion.
If Kiffin was going to return to Knoxville, many would think the hiring of Danny White would work in his favor. We have reported since the firing of Jeremy Pruitt that Kiffin has expressed interest on multiple occasions to express interest in the job, but its unclear what kind of support he has. He worked under Danny White's brother at FAU, and White also has Ole Miss ties, but is Tennessee willing to bring Kiffin back? At this point, we believe he is a bit of long-shot, as most buzz around his name is just generated from social media.
Fleck’s name has surfaced over the weekend in an initial report from FootballScoop’s John Brice. He is a vetted candidate that Tennessee has looked at. Tennessee has likely vetted multiple candidates. Outside of that, nobody has much of a feel for where things are. A source close to Fleck has indicated to VR2 on SI that there is not much movement between the two at this point, but at the time on Sunday evening, things could have been moving slower than usual.
Napier opened as the betting favorite, and he is still a factor in our opinion. His camp has kept things quiet to this point. He meets most of the criteria Tennessee is looking for, but he is not a sitting Power 5 Head Coach. He has been very selective in making his next jump, much like Campbell. Again, money talks, so anything can happen. It is highly unlikely that Louisiana can match Tennessee, so it could come down to comfort for the rising young star.
The only true coordinator candidate that we’ve heard mentioned for the job is Tony Elliott. He has a bright coaching career ahead of him, and he has a history with Danny White. White offered him the UCF job at one point, so there is a relationship between the two. We have confirmed that he would be interested in the Tennessee job, but it is unclear where Tennessee stands with Elliott. They may have not even contacted him at this point, so it is tough to say. White is savvy, and Elliott could be an obvious smokescreen. It is tough to gauge this one. He is a bright offensive mind, but we do not view him as the top candidate on the board.
Other names we have heard mentioned, but have not been able to substantiate anything with include Luke Fickell, James Franklin, Sonny Dykes, Will Healy and Lance Leipold.