What if Cut leaves?

Now that offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe has Tennessee scoring points at a mind-boggling clip, Volunteer fans are celebrating ... and worrying. One, will Cutcliffe leave at season's end to become a head coach? Two, who would UT hire to replace him?

Cutcliffe has a surgically repaired heart, so he isn't going to leave a secure job at Tennessee for a high-stress, low-ceiling job where winning is Mission Impossible. If the Vols continue scoring points in bunches, however, he'll get the kind of offer that could turn his head. My guess is that it's 50/50 he'll be back for 2007.

That brings us to concern No. 2: If Cut leaves, who succeeds him?

All of Phillip Fulmer's coordinator hires to date – John Chavis, Cutcliffe, Randy Sanders and Cutcliffe again – have been guys who already had strong ties to Tennessee. That's why I think two of the strongest candidates would be Doug Marrone and Kippy Brown.

Marrone served as Tennessee's offensive line coach in 2001. The Vols scored 400 points that season, most in the eight years since Tennessee won the national title in 1998.

Brown distinguished himself twice as a Vol aide – as receivers coach (1983-89) and as assistant head coach (1993-94).

The obvious drawback: Getting Marrone or Brown to leave high-paying NFL jobs would be both tricky and costly.

Current receivers coach Trooper Taylor would get an interview if the coordinator job comes open but he may not have enough coaching experience to win Fulmer's trust just yet.

Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges and LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher would be attractive options but each seems well entrenched at his current school. Also, they may be too pricey for Tennessee. Still, Auburn has won 21 of 23 SEC games since Borges joined the staff and Fisher has molded the SEC's highest-scoring offense this year (35.6 points per game). And, like David Cutcliffe, both men field the kind of balanced run/pass offenses Fulmer prefers.

My darkhorse candidate would be Kentucky offensive coordinator Joker Phillips. He has done a fine job with so-so talent in Lexington.


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