Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer has no siblings or offspring in the coaching profession but it's a safe bet he'll stay within "the family" in hiring a replacement for offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe, who is leaving at season's end to become head coach at Duke University.
All of Fulmer's previous hires for offensive coordinator/assistant head coach have been Vol players, Vol assistants, Vol colleagues or all of the above.
Here's a brief history lesson:
1993: Promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach following the ouster of John Majors, Fulmer immediately promoted Cutcliffe from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. In addition to being close friends, Fulmer and Cutcliffe had been colleagues on the UT staff for 10 years.
1993: Needing a dynamic recruiter and receivers coach, Fulmer hired Kippy Brown, a former Vol colleague (1983-89) and gave him the designation assistant head coach.
1995: When Larry Marmie (a holdover from the Majors' regime) left the defensive coordinator position following the 1994 season, Fulmer promoted John Chavis, a former Vol who already had spent six years on the UT staff, including two as Fulmer's linebackers coach.
1999: When Cutcliffe left to become head coach at Ole Miss, Fulmer promoted ex-Vol Randy Sanders to offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Sanders already had spent 10 years as a colleague of Fulmer's, including two years serving as Fulmer's running backs coach.
2005: Lest he lose his ace recruiter, Fulmer promoted Trooper Taylor to assistant head coach. Taylor already had served one year as Fulmer's running backs coach.
2006: When Sanders resigned following the 2005 season, Fulmer quickly re-hired good friend/ex-colleague/ex-aide Cutcliffe for a second tour as offensive coordinator.
If you take a close look at the makeup of UT's current staff, it is obvious that Fulmer's comfort zone consists of his immediate family, a couple of adopted sons (Trooper Taylor, Greg Adkins) and a pair of in-laws (Kurt Roper, Matt Luke) who joined the circle by virtue of their relationships with Cutcliffe.
- Defensive coordinator John Chavis: 19 years in the program, former Vol player
- Offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe: 19 years in the program, former part-time assistant
- Defensive line coach Dan Brooks: 14 years in the program
- Defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell: 13 years in the program, former grad assistant
- Secondary coach Larry Slade: 9 years in the program
- Assistant head coach Trooper Taylor: quality recruiter
- Offensive line coach Greg Adkins: quality recruiter
- Running backs coach Kurt Roper: hired on the recommendation of Cutcliffe
- Tight ends coach Matt Luke: hired on the recommendation of Cutcliffe
Given Fulmer's hiring history, there can be little doubt that he will stick with his usual pattern and secure a successor to Cutcliffe by either (A) promoting from within the current staff or (B) hiring someone who has played and/or coached at Tennessee previously.
Thus, the top three candidates to replace Cutcliffe are:
- Kippy Brown, receivers coach for the Detroit Lions who served as Fulmer's assistant head coach in 1993-94
- Trooper Taylor, Fulmer's current assistant head coach
- Greg Adkins, Fulmer's current offensive line coach
If you want a longshot candidate ...
- Doug Marrone, offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints who served as Fulmer's offensive line coach in 2001.