Next UT coach: Will Muschamp?

Conventional wisdom holds that Tennessee will hire a guy with head coaching experience to succeed outgoing Phillip Fulmer.

If the Vols go unconventional, however, odds are that Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp will be their guy.

Muschamp, 37, certainly has a lot of factors in his favor. For instance:

- He has strong ties throughout The South. Born in Rome, Ga., his college coaching stops include West Georgia, Eastern Kentucky, Valdosta State, LSU, Auburn and Texas.

- He's a Nick Saban protege. He coached Saban's LSU linebackers in 2001, then coordinated his Tiger defenses in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

- He has NFL experience, an attribute recruits with pro aspirations find attractive. Again working for Saban, Muschamp coordinated a 2005 Miami Dolphins defense that ranked second in the NFL with 49 sacks.

- He's a fiery, animated, in-your-face kind of guy who could provide the spark needed to ignite a group of Tennessee players who seemed listless at times in 2008.

- He's a leader. Muschamp wound up being voted a defensive co-captain as a senior at the University of Georgia after joining the Bulldog program as a walk-on.

- He's affordable. Although he is the Big 12's highest-paid assistant at a reported $425,000 per year, Muschamp's salary pales alongside the offer Tennessee could make to secure his services as head coach.

- He has had terrific success at the collegiate level. His 2002 LSU stop unit led the NCAA in scoring defense (11.0 points per game) and total defense (252.0 yards per game). His '03 defense helped the Tigers win the BCS national title. Muschamp's 2006 Auburn defense ranked seventh nationally, allowing just 21 touchdowns. His '07 unit finished No. 6 in total defense, pass defense and scoring defense, No. 7 in pass-efficiency defense. His 2008 Texas defense ranks No. 2 nationally in sacks (3.45 per game), No. 4 in rushing defense (82.5 yards per game) and No. 25 in scoring defense (19.5 points per game).

On the negative side, Muschamp's 2008 Longhorn defense ranks No. 58 in total defense (348.55 yards per game) and No. 110 in pass defense (266.09 yards per game).

Conventional wisdom notwithstanding, Muschamp could be a good fit for the Vol vacancy if school brass are willing (pun intended) to gamble on an assistant coach.


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