Fact or Fiction: Tennessee is a top-10 job in college football
National recruiting director Mike Farrell and national recruiting analyst Adam Gorney tackle three topics daily and determine whether they believe the statements or not.
FACT OR FICTION: Tennessee is bigger rebuild than Vanderbilt
1. Tennessee is a top-10 job in college football.
Farrell’s take: FICTION. It’s not. I’m sorry. Let’s just start with Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Oklahoma, Texas and USC. Add in Georgia, LSU, Florida, Notre Dame and you already have 10 without including programs like Michigan, Miami, Florida State (believe it or not), Penn State, Texas A&M and others. One could argue that Auburn is a better job than Tennessee in the SEC and probably win that argument. Tennessee is in the Nos. 15-20 range overall right now as a desirable program in my book.
Gorney’s take: FICTION. Neyland Stadium is one of the best game-day environments in college football but Tennessee is not a top-10 job - and it’s really not even all that close. You know how I know? Tennessee is open right now and what elite college football coaches are jumping at the chance to take that job? Very few, if any.
Just go through the SEC and Tennessee probably falls somewhere right in the middle, probably seventh-best after Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M, Auburn and LSU. There are plenty of others around the country that would be better than the Vols as well. One day, Tennessee could be an elite job again, a top-10 kind of program because history and tradition runs deep and it’s a proud place, but right now? No way.
2. Tony Elliott doesn’t have enough experience to lead the Vols.
Farrell’s take: FICTION. The Clemson offensive coordinator has no head coaching experience and fans are worried he’d be another Jeremy Pruitt. But Tony Elliott is well respected by everyone you talk to, he’s learned under Dabo Swinney all these years and didn’t have the reputation as a guy who didn’t get along with others that Pruitt had. Many feel an experienced hand is needed to guide the Vols out of this hole, but Elliott is a great coach who would surround himself with plenty of experience.
Gorney’s take: FACT. Does Elliott have the experience to deal with rebuilding a program basically from the bottom, to navigate through a tricky NCAA situation that could last a long time and then make the Volunteers a conference contender again? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean he’s not one of the most talented offensive coordinators in the country, a fantastic football mind and if he got hired he would do an excellent job in Knoxville.
I would hire Elliott in a heartbeat if he wanted the job. Just like Georgia hired Kirby Smart with no head coaching experience and the Bulldogs are doing great.
3. Lane Kiffin would be interested in the Vols job.
Farrell’s take: FICTION. I can’t see why Lane Kiffin, who has been linked to the open Vols job, would be interested in going back to the place he spurned years ago. Kiffin worked hard to get back to the Power Five after his short stop at Tennessee and then a rough go at USC and he is beloved in Oxford now. With NCAA issues ahead in Knoxville, I don’t think he’d want to take on the rebuild at looms in Knoxville.
Gorney’s take: FICTION. The night Kiffin left Tennessee after only about a year, things were burned, obscenities were flung and students blocked his path from leaving the football facility, so no, I don’t think Kiffin would be interested in taking the job again. Nor should he be. Kiffin is starting to stabilize things at Ole Miss, this recruiting class should be in the upper half of the SEC and there’s no need to return to a program that is a complete mess and could be facing serious NCAA sanctions.