Hal Yeager / Getty Images
Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is a finalist to be Tennessee's next head coach.

Why Auburn DC Kevin Steele is serious candidate at Tennessee

SEC Country reporter Mike Griffith will candidly answer your Tennessee Vols sports queries each weekday in our question of the day. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to @MikeGriffith32 or on the Tennessee Volunteers Insiders Facebook page

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s coaching search has certainly traveled a long and winding — and very bumpy road.

And it’s not over yet.

However, new Vols athletic director Phillip Fulmer is surely closing in on his final choice.

SEC Country has learned that Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, SMU head coach Chad Morris and Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables are three candidates who have emerged as finalists.

RELATED: Kevin Steele among 3 candidates who have emerged 

Other reports have included Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt in the mix.

Steele, a finalist for the Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in the country, has been a head coach before at Baylor but didn’t have much success.

That has led some to question how or why the 59-year-old could possibly be a finalist.

That makes this …

Today’s question of the day

My thought is Steele, because he played at Tennessee, he has the most experience and he could put together the best staff and do the best job of recruiting.

Steele was the head coach at Baylor from 1999-2002, when that program’s facilities were severely lacking, and his 9-36 record reflects that fact.

But it’s 15 years later, and Steele has since coached under Bobby Bowden at Florida State, Nick Saban at Alabama, Dabo Swinney at Clemson, Les Miles at LSU and Gus Malzahn at Auburn.

Before Baylor, it’s worth noting, Steele coached under College Football Hall of Famer Tom Osborne at Nebraska from 1989-1994.

Steele has a reputation as one of the best recruiters in the nation, and he would be able to assemble a strong staff with SEC experience.

Here’s what Steele said last Saturday when asked about being linked to the Tennessee job:

“Well, I was on the team there — not a very good player, but I was on the team, (and) I got a degree from there,” Steele said. “I love my school. But other than that, I haven’t been told anything. I’m just working for Auburn, and I’m proud to be doing it.”

Would he consider going back to Tennessee?

“I’ve got a pretty good job,” Steele said. “I’ve got a pretty good job.”

Steele’s Tennessee ties — he was recruited by Johnny Majors and also coached under Majors and alongside Fulmer as a graduate assistant and linebackers coach (1980-1983) and as defensive backs coach (1987-1988).