Many observers assume Sanders' successor will be his predecessor, David Cutcliffe. In addition to being a close friend of Fulmer's, Cutcliffe was the Vol coordinator from 1993 through 1998 before leaving to become head man at Ole Miss. Cutcliffe is living in Knoxville and interested in coaching again.
Fulmer admitted he has spoken with his former aide about the vacancy and that, "I think he's interested." Asked if Cutcliffe's preference for a head coaching job might complicate matters, Fulmer replied: "Certainly, there would be a point where we'd need to come to some kind of resolution if that's the direction we go."
Although Cutcliffe appears to be the clear-cut favorite for the job, Fulmer said he has not narrowed his focus to one candidate at this time, insisting that Tennessee "will do a thorough search" for a new coordinator.
Asked how many people he has contacted, Fulmer replied "several," then hinted that he will talk to a few more once regular-season play ends.
With senior quarterback Rick Clausen in his final year of eligibility, Tennessee's 2006 offense will be run by Erik Ainge and Jonathan Crompton. Ainge has struggled mightily as a sophomore in 2005, and Crompton is a redshirting freshman who has never taken a college snap. Finding a coordinator who can hasten their development is crucial if the Vol attack is to make significant strides next season.
"The first thing to do is make sure we get an outstanding quarterback coach – somebody that can really do a great job with the youngsters that are coming up, fundamentally," Fulmer said.
The Vol coach said he wants to find "somebody that has some experience and some success with guys. Obviously, the next thing is: Have they had experience managing an offense, people, players, media, boosters, recruiting and all of those other things that go with that position?"
Fulmer then changed the subject by noting: "Let's talk about Vanderbilt now."