Next UT coach: Butch Davis?

More and more it appears that one man is emerging as the top name on Tennessee's shopping list for a new football coach.

That would be Butch Davis, second-year head man for the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Davis, who turns 57 on Nov. 17, seems to have every attribute Tennessee could want. For instance:

- He is known as an outstanding recruiter. He began his college coaching career as Jimmy Johnson's recruiting coordinator at Oklahoma State. During his six-year run as head coach of the Miami Hurricanes (1995-2000), Davis reeled in such notables as Ray Lewis, Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Jeremy Shockey, Sean Taylor, Kellen Winslow, Willis McGahee, Jonathan Vilma and Vince Wilfork. He showed he still has the touch in his first year at UNC, recruiting a class ranked among the top 10 nationally.

- He is recognized as an exceptional developer of talent. He has coached 29 first-round NFL Draft picks. The most recent was Tar Heel defensive tackle Kentwan Barber (2008), who was merely a part-time starter prior to Davis' arrival.

- He – like SEC head men Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, Bobby Petrino and Rich Brooks – has NFL experience. Davis spent five years as defensive line coach (the last two as defensive coordinator) for the Dallas Cowboys. He was head coach of the Cleveland Browns for 3½ seasons (2001-04).

- He has a track record for success. He was part of a Miami Hurricane staff that won the 1987 national title, part of a Cowboys staff that won back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 1992 and '93 and head coach of a Hurricane staff that posted a No. 2 national finish in 2000.

- He is viewed as an excellent Xs and Os coach. Assuming a Miami program facing NCAA probation in 1995, he guided the team to seven consecutive victories to close the season but had to decline a BCS bowl bid because of NCAA sanctions incurred by a previous coaching regime. He went 51-20 at Miami, with a 33-9 league record and three Big East championships. His final Hurricane team went 11-1, trounced Spurrier's Florida Gators 37-20 in the Sugar Bowl and finished No. 2 nationally.

- He excels at rebuilding jobs. Taking over a Cleveland Browns team that had gone 5-27 in the two years prior to his arrival, he went 7-9 in Year 1 and 9-7 in Year 2. His 2007 North Carolina team went 4-8 but suffered six losses by a combined 24 points. This year's squad drilled No. 24 Connecticut 38-12 on Oct. 4, posting the Tar Heels' first defeat of a nationally ranked opponent in 11 years. UNC jumped to No. 22 in the ratings the following week, marking its first appearance in a major national poll in seven years. North Carolina currently stands 7-2.

- He has a varied background, having worked on both offense and defense. Davis coached wide receivers and tight ends at Oklahoma State, then coached defensive linemen with the Hurricanes and the NFL's Cowboys. His 2000 Miami team ranked No. 2 nationally in scoring and No. 5 in total offense. He has impressive credentials on the defensive side of the ball, as well. His '00 Hurricanes ranked No. 5 nationally in scoring defense and No. 8 in pass defense. His 2001 Browns led the NFL in takeaways (42) and interceptions (33). That big-play defense also scored 32 points, posting five touchdowns and a safety.

- He knows how to succeed at bowl time, posting a 4-0 record in postseason play during his head coaching stint at Miami.

- He has great knowledge of the game and the ability to simply and articulately express it. Davis spent two seasons (2005-06) as an analyst for the NFL Network.

- He has the charisma and enthusiasm to energize a fan base. In his first year at North Carolina attendance rose 18 percent, with five sellouts in the team's six home games.

Given all of the above, it is little wonder that Davis is widely regarded as the No. 1 target on Tennessee's wish list.


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