Vols need a Bowl

Tennessee needs to play in a bowl game. Keeping a streak of 17 consecutive bowls is nice, but that's not way it's important for the Vols to play in the postseason.

It's important because Tennessee needs extra work on offense to regroup for next season. And it's important to get a new offensive coordinator in place to orchestrate practices and learn about the personnel he's inheriting.

It's key.

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said he might wait until after the bowl to hire an offensive coordinator. That would be a big mistake - unless it's someone other than David Cutcliffe.

I fully expect Fulmer to hire Cutcliffe by early December. It makes sense. Fulmer and Cutcliffe are close friends. Fulmer is confident and comfortable with Cutcliffe. The last time the two worked together, the Vols won a national championship.

Cutcliffe is an outstanding coach. He is a solid play caller. He can develop quarterbacks. Each quarterback he had during his Tennessee tenure improved. He is demanding in practice. He is a disciplinarian. He pays attention to detail.

If anyone can get Erik Ainge out of his funk, it's David Cutcliffe.

If Fulmer hires Cutcliffe, it should be done no later than Dec. 10 - provided the Vols are bowl bound. In that case, someone on UT's staff will have to go. Randy Sanders, who resigned Oct. 31 as offensive coordinator, might step aside as quarterbacks coach. Or another assistant might not be retained.

Do what you must to make room for Cutcliffe.

Some Tennessee fans have a concern that Cutcliffe might be the coordinator for a year or two, then leave for a head coaching job. That's a good news, bad news scenario. Good news because it means the Vols would have turned things around on offense. Bad news because you're losing Cutcliffe.

``I appreciate what you're saying 100 percent,'' Cutcliffe said of a possible short stay on the staff. ``You can't guarantee anything unless you're tied up contractually.''

Maybe UT will try to tie up Cutcliffe contractually. Maybe they'll offer a three-year deal with incentives to stay and a buyout to leave.

But even if Cutcliffe leaves after a year, he's worth hiring to help forge an immediate turnaround.

And if you hire someone else, that person could also leave after a year or two.

There are no guarantees.

Someone opposed to hiring Cutcliffe wondered what if you go 7-4 with Cutcliffe?

I say, what if you go 7-4 or 6-5 without Cutcliffe, without a man who's a proven coordinator, without a man with head coaching experience, without a quality coach in your own backyard?

Some opposed to hiring Cutcliffe feel UT would run what they consider to be the same stale, predictable system.

I say, it's not the system. If you call the right play at the right time with the right game plan and execute, you'll score points and win games. I doubt there's a play in Auburn's playbook or Georgia's playbook that isn't in Tennessee's playbook.

Cutcliffe took this stale, predictable system to Ole Miss and set 47 records.

If Fulmer has consecutive seasons with no more than six wins, he's in trouble. If your Fulmer and your job is on the line, would you entrust your offense to anyone else but Cutcliffe?

Answer: No.

And you make the hire as soon as possible. You want someone in place to work with Ainge in December, not wait until March. You want someone to evaluate the receivers now, not in four months. You want someone to analyze the offensive line and scrutinize the running backs.

That's why it's very important for Tennessee to get a bowl bid.

And that's why if Tennessee is bowl eligible, it's important to hire Cutcliffe soon after the Kentucky game.


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