Other candidates include Maryville High School coach George Quarles, former South Carolina and Appalachian State head coach Sparky Woods, and former Michigan offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Mike DeBord, who interviewed for the UT offensive coordinator's job.
Kevin Steele, a former Tennessee player and assistant coach (1987), had talks with Tennessee before the Outback Bowl about joining the staff, but it seems unlikely Steele would come to Tennessee as assistant head coach/tight ends coach. Steele just finished his first season as defensive coordinator at Alabama. He makes about $350,000 a year with a $75,000 buyout.
Quarles, who has won four consecutive 4A state championships at Maryville, could not be reached for comment. He was expected to be interviewed this week.
Woods, who played at Carson-Newman College, worked four years at Alabama but was let go when Mike Shula was fired. He did not coach this past season. He has coached each position on offense except the offensive line and he recruited to Alabama the Mississippi Player of the Year two years in a row – Jimmy Johns and Terry Grant.
Woods, who has long complimented Phillip Fulmer as a coach, does not have an interview scheduled, but he is interested in the job.
His son, Casey Woods, has been a holder on the UT team the past few years and is expected to be a graduate assistant the spring.
LOFTON STILL IN SHOOTING SLUMP
Entering this season, Chris Lofton was a 44 percent shooter from 3-point range. He averaged 17.2 points as a sophomore and 20.8 points as a junior in earning SEC Player of the Year honors.
But Lofton isn't shooting like he did his first two seasons under coach Bruce Pearl. Lofton is hitting just 33.3 percent from 3-point range and averaging 13.5 points – his lowest figure since 13.2 as a true freshman.
Pearl doesn't like to spend much time talking about his senior shooter's slump. But he doesn't deny Lofton hasn't been the same offensive player.
Why? The reasons vary. But one thing is evident – Lofton isn't shooting with the same confidence he did his first three seasons at Tennessee.
``His confidence has waned, but he'll get it back,'' Pearl said. ``He's still playing effective and other teams have to account for him.''
Pearl said Lofton had always been overlooked, but then he found himself as a preseason first-team All-American and on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
``Human nature is at work here,'' Pearl said.
Pearl said that the 6-2 Lofton has always shot contested jumpers fading back a bit with his leg kicked out so as to create space. That has extended to Lofton's open shots as well. Pearl wants Lofton to square up on his open 3s and not kick his leg out.
Oddly, Peal said Lofton is getting more open looks this season because of the team's greater scoring balance, but that hasn't helped Lofton's long-range accuracy.
``Like any hitter who hits well, they go through periods of not hitting well,'' Pearl said. ``It doesn't mean they're not a great hitter.''
Pearl is confident that Lofton will snap out of his slump. All he needs to do is hit a few jumpers.
And with Tennessee facing some upcoming teams that like to play zone, that could the right time for Lofton to find his range.
AINGE SIGNS WITH AGENT SEXTON
Ainge, who played his senior season with a broken little finger on his throwing hand and a bad back, was unwilling to play in any college all-star game except the Senior Bowl, which is played in Mobile, Ala.