University of Tennessee fans are not the only ones playing the waiting game while athletic director Dave Hart conducts the Vols' head coaching search. High school players who have committed to UT are also watching and waiting.
Those committed recruits include wide receiver Josh Smith and offensive lineman Brett Kendrick. Smith and Kendrick are teammates at Christian Academy (CAK).
Smith and Kendrick contributed to another dream season for the CAK Warriors. Last week the squad clinched a second straight state championship. The 6'5" Kendrick also raked in a huge individual award as this season's Mr. Football in Tennessee for 2-A linemen.
While CAK was on top of its football world, Smith and Kendrick watched UT struggle to the point the man who initially offered the scholarships (former head coach Derek Dooley) was fired.
"When Dooley got fired, I did open up my recruiting again until I heard
they [UT] were going to honor my commitment. I committed to the University
of Tennessee, not to a coach," said Kendrick.
"The athletic director, Dave Hart, called our head coach and told him to let us know our scholarship offers would be honored. I mean, I am committed to Tennessee as long as the school is committed to me," said Smith.
For more than two weeks the teammates have waited anxiously to see exactly who will be their next football coach. They also say they have not been privy to any so-called insider information.
"I'm not getting any hints from anyone. We know just as much as everybody else. Probably less because I try to stay out of all that stuff. I stay away from following the rumors about the next coach," said Kendrick.
"Who they hire can affect your future, obviously. I mean, if it is an all-running program, that won't be as much fun for me [as a wide receiver]," said Smith.
Try as they may to quietly watch the coaching search from the sidelines, they admit it is hard to avoid conversations about the various candidates who have been mentioned.
"We talked about how Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State runs the same kind of spread offense as CAK. Then he [Josh] called me on the phone last night and told me he thinks it is going to be [Charlie] Strong as the frontrunner. Strong has obviously done a very good job at Louisville. But then you immediately hear someone else say Strong wants to stay at Louisville. That's why I stay away from the talk because it is getting old. I just want to know who my coach is," laughed Kendrick.
"I'm hearing some names that I'm like, 'well those schools were recruiting me so I kind of like that coach over there.' I mean, Oklahoma State obviously, that was one of my options and they recruited me so I did not mind hearing [OSU head coach Mike] Gundy's name. But there have not been any coaches mentioned who I did not like. You just have to trust UT is going to hire a great coach."
Both players say watching three other SEC schools fill their coaching vacancies before UT has not been discouraging.
"I think him [Dave Hart] spending all this time is actually a good thing for us because I think we're going to get a really good coach," said Kendrick.
"Whoever they hire I'm going to respect and hope it's a good one. I'm just excited to go to UT and try my best," said Smith.
"We're more excited that we get to play four more years together," said Kendrick.