Butch Jones is facing a new defenisve coordinator hire for the first time in his Tennessee tenure, and with the way momentum is gaining for the Vols in 2016, the options appear to be plentiful. Could Jones go with a former Vol defensive coordinator? Will it be an under-the-radar name? InsideTennessee takes a look at the preliminary coaching hot board:
Bob Shoop, Penn State defensive coordinator
This is the hot name right now in the beginning stages of the search and for good reason. Shoop left Vanderbilt in 2013 to take over the same role at Penn State and turned in an impressive showing, guiding the Nittany Lions to the second-best total defense in college football after giving up just 278.6 yards per game in 2014 and developing yet another Top 25 defense for the Nittany Lions in 2015. The real question is how interested is Shoop, who turned down Auburn earlier this year and has close ties to James Franklin and the Pennsylvania area. Another potential hurdle is the second-year Penn State coordinator's salary. Fox Sports reports Shoop's salary is nearly $1 million. Would the Vols be able to pony up that much money to land him?
Todd Orlando, Houston defensive coordinator
Houston's new defensive coordinator introduced himself with a bang in 2015, helping lead the Cougars to a 13-2 season that ended in holding an explosive Florida State offense to just 24 points. Before shaping Houston into one of the best defenses in the AAC this season, Orlando's defenses at UConn, Florida International and Utah State finished among the top 25 in fewest points allowed three times in four seasons. The first-year Cougar defensive coordinator signed a two-year deal worth $501,000, making him the highest paid non-Power Five assistant in the country. Tom Herman greatly values his defensive leadership and could be a name to seriously watch out for moving forward.
John Chavis, Texas A&M defensive coordinator
Could The Chief come back home for one last ride? John Chavis helped lead Tennessee to a national championship in 1998 before leaving to head up the defensive unit at LSU, where the Tigers in the top 25 in overall defense four times in six seasons. A Chavis hiring would be a trip down nostalgia lane for most Tennessee fans who coveted his leadership style and aggressive defenses, while also being partially credited for bringing the zone blitz to college football in the 1990s. The Chief is now at Texas A&M, where he assisted in turning the Aggies around from the 101st-worst defense in the NCAA into the No. 51 total defense that gave up just 380 yards a game in 2015. Chavis will come at a hefty price tag, much like Shoop, and the question will be if Tennessee can and will pay it.
Gene Chizik, North Carolina defensive coordinator
A national championship-winning coach who guided North Carolina to its best defensive season under Larry Fedora, Chizik helped improve UNC's horrendous defense to a respectable unit, albeit one that still gave up 435 yards per game as the second-worst total defense in the ACC. Chizik is an interesting name to keep an eye on. He does have a history with molding top-ranked defenses, as evidenced by his Broyles Award-winning season in 2004 when he led the Tigers to the No. 5 overall defense in the country, and would likely be willing to make the jump.
Lance Thompson, South Carolina assistant coach
Lance Thompson just left Auburn six days ago to take an assistant head coach/defensive line coach gig at South Carolina under Will Muschamp, so Tennessee would have to get him to up and move again right after accepting a new position. But it's not out of the realm of possibility, and he did a formidable job of helping Auburn cruise past Memphis in the Tigers' bowl game as interim defensive coordinator after Muschamp left to accept the head coaching position at South Carolina. Thompson has history in Knoxville, where he was an assistant from 2009-2011, and has been a successful defensive coach at both Alabama and Georgia Tech.
Brady Hoke, former Michigan head coach
Brady Hoke is out of coaching at the moment, but that's not enough to leave him out of the mix. Hoke and Butch Jones are friends, and the former Michigan head coach attended select spring practices at Tennessee this year to observe and offer advice. The defensive-minded coach turned Ball State completely around as a head coach before taking over in Ann Arbor and has worked with offensive coordinator Mike DeBord before when the two were assistants at Michigan. While he left the Wolverines under tumultuous cirumstances, there's no denying his defensive prowess and abillity to connect with his players.