KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, SMU head coach Chad Morris and Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables have emerged as the top three candidates for the Tennessee head coaching job as of Tuesday, according to a source with direct knowledge.
Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer has interviewed several candidates, going at the task as aggressively as possible in his five days at the helm with current Vols players and the 2018 recruiting class in mind.
The source said Monday that Fulmer would be “doing his due diligence” before identifying candidates he felt would provide Tennessee its best opportunity to become a championship contender again.
Southern California offensive coordinator Tee Martin and Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis might still be in play for roles on the staff, depending on whom Fulmer hires as head coach.
Tennessee is expected to fill the position in the next 48 hours, as the Vols have recruits coming to Knoxville this weekend on official visits.
Steele, 59, is in his second season as Auburn’s defensive coordinator. He played at Tennessee for Johnny Majors and coached under Majors from 1980-1981, as a graduate assistant, and again from 1987-1988.
Steele was the head coach at Baylor from 1999-2002 after a four-year stint as the Carolina Panthers’ linebackers coach.
Steele’s Tennessee ties would seem to open the door for Chavis and Martin to potentially join the Vols staff.
Morris, 48, is in his third year as SMU’s head coach. He has improved the Mustangs’ record each season, from 2-10 to 2015 to 5-7 in 2016 and 7-5 this season.
Venables, 46, played at Kansas State under Bill Snyder and has served as Dabo Swinney’s defensive coordinator at Clemson since 2012. He coached at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops from 1999-2011, serving as co-defensive coordinator from 1999-2003 and as the sole defensive coordinator from 2004-2011.