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Tennessee's top potential coaching candidates to replace Jeremy Pruitt

On Monday, January 18th, the University of Tennessee parted ways with head coach Jeremy Pruitt. Pruitt was 16 and 19 in three seasons at Tennessee.
Credit: Louis Fernandez

The University of Tennessee fired head football coach Jeremy Pruitt Monday, with cause. This means the university does not have to pay Pruitt's $12.6 million dollar buy out. 

Pruitt finished with a record of 16 and 19 on Rocky Top. 

RELATED: Tennessee head football coach Jeremy Pruitt, 9 others fired after "serious" NCAA violations surface

Athletics Director Phillip Fulmer is also stepping down. The NCAA violations are still under investigation, and UT Chancellor Donde Plowman says she hopes it comes to a close soon. 

For now, defensive coach Kevin Steele will serve as interim head coach. Steele has been on Tennessee's coaching staff for less than a week. 

This makes for an interesting coaching search as the university has to first hire an athletic director, and then a head football coach. 

RELATED: Phillip Fulmer to retire as UT Athletics Director after three years on the job

   

Now begins the process of who could become the next head football coach at the University of Tennessee. The WBIR Sports team put together a list of potential coaching candidates. 

1. Hugh Freeze, Liberty

Freeze is the proven front runner among Vol fans and that has been very apparent in the last two coaching searches. Freeze led Liberty to a 10-1 record last season and top 25 recognition. He, most importantly, has SEC head coaching experience at Ole Miss.

Credit: AP
Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze watches during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Arkansas in Little Rock, Ark., Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. Mississippi defeated Arkansas 30-27. (AP Photo/David Quinn)

2. Billy Napier, Louisiana

Napier spent four seasons at Alabama under Nick Saban, so he has plenty of experience in the SEC. He is also a Tennessee native. Napier led the Rajun Cajuns to a 10-1 record this season.

Credit: AP
FILE - Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Billy Napier directs his team from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Iowa State in Ames, Iowa, in this Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, file photo. Louisiana-Lafayette won 31-14. No. 25 Louisiana-Lafayette is on track for one of the best seasons in program history under coach Billy Napier. But it could come crashing down this week if the Ragin’ Cajuns stumble against South Alabama. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, FIle)

3. Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina

Chadwell is also a Tennessee native, as he went to high school at Anderson County. He led Coastal Carolina to an 11-1 record and top 10 appearance.

Credit: AP
Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell motions a thumbs up as he waches platyers warm up before an NCAA football game against Georgia State, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

4. Gus Malzahn, former Auburn head coach

Malzahn led Auburn to a winning-record program. He's a veteran SEC coach that has defeated Saban three times. Jeremy Pruitt went 0-3 against the Big 3 in the SEC - Alabama, Florida, Georgia. A coach with SEC-winning experience is huge.

Credit: AP
Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn during an NCAA college football game against the Kansas State Wildcats Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014 in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

5. Tom Herman, former Texas head coach

Tennessee has a good track record with former Texas head coaches... and the stability Tom Herman brings is necessary for this program right now. Herman has a .71 winning percentage as a head coach and has never lost a bowl game.

Credit: AP
Tom Herman talks to the media during a news conference where he was introduced as Texas' new head NCAA college football coach, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Austin. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)