Which aides will UT keep?

No one knows what Phillip Fulmer will be doing this time next year ... except that he won't be overseeing Tennessee's football program. The head man's forced resignation earlier this week saw to that.

There is a good chance that one or more Vol assistants will be back for 2009, however, as Fulmer's successor attempts to smooth the transition from UT's past into its future.

Defensive coordinator John Chavis, for instance, may be asked to stick around. His 2008 stop unit ranks 15th nationally in rushing defense, 18th in pass defense and 11th in total defense. With seven starters due back, the defense could be better in 2009.

Asked if he could imagine a scenario that would have him back on The Hill next season, Chavis replied: "I don't want to close any doors but I want the focus to be on our football team and not on me."

Offensive coordinator Dave Clawson could be asked back, as well, even though his 2008 attack has struggled all season due to problems in the offensive line and at quarterback.

When asked if he would be interested in returning for another shot with the Vols in 2009, Clawson deftly avoided the question.

"That's something right now beyond my control," he said. "All I can worry about is the next 25 days ... to work like crazy and try to find a way to win the next game. Then we have two games after that. In football, you don't have the luxury of a crystal ball or a long time-line. You just worry about the next game, and that's what gets you through times like this."

Asked if he has given any thought to his football future, Clawson shrugged.

"I'm not even thinking about that now," he said. "I just want to do a good job this week and work like crazy to try and get this offense better."

Several of Tennessee's position coaches will be considered for spots on the 2009 staff, as well. Each has attributes that could appeal to the next head coach. Consider:

- Stan Drayton has done a nice job coaching the running backs and is an exceptional recruiter with strong ties to talent-rich Florida. He appears to have a great chance to be retained.

- Receivers coach Latrell Scott also gets high marks as a recruiter. With Fulmer departing, aides who can bring in talent take on added significance.

- Jason Michael's retention should benefit a tight end corps that returns in its entirety (Luke Stocker, Jeff Cottam, Brandon Warren, Aaron Douglas) next season.

- Offensive line coach Greg Adkins, as the only offensive holdover from the Vols' 2007 staff, helped recruit most of the offensive players who'll still be around in '09.

- Larry Slade brings back seven of the top eight players from a secondary that was excellent in 2008 and should be awesome in 2009.

- Dan Brooks is the best defensive tackles coach in the business. Why would the Vols' next head man want to get rid of him?

- Ends coach Steve Caldwell is a high-yield recruiter. Additionally, he's in the process of developing some outstanding young talents – Wes Brown, Ben Martin, Chris Walker and Gerald Williams. It might be a good idea not to interrupt that process.

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