JOE BIDDLE: Would David Cutcliffe be Tennessee's answer? - WKRN News 2

JOE BIDDLE: Would David Cutcliffe be Tennessee's answer?


The rumor mill has three shifts working overtime to get the latest scoop on Tennessee's next football coach.

Never mind that the Vols have a football coach under contract and unless they want to pay Derek Dooley $5 million in parting gifts, he is still their coach.

But it's fun to play the guessing game. Jon Gruden? Bobby Petrino? Charlie Strong? Tommy Tuberville?

I'll give you some food for thought. You decide. A devoted longtime Tennessee supporter deserves the credit, or blame, depending on whether you like it or not.

He calls it "getting the band back together.''

You go to Duke and hire David Cutcliffe as the next Tennessee football coach. Cut is one of the more popular and productive assistant coaches Tennessee has had.

He is 6-2 in his fifth season at Duke with remaining games at Florida State and at home against Georgia Tech and Miami.

Duke is bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. The Blue Devils just beat North Carolina for the first time since 2003.

In 2010, Duke averaged 381.3 yards a game on offense, the highest number since 1989. In his second year, his 5-7 record represented the most wins since 1994. His 15 victories in his first four years are five more than the program's total in the previous eight seasons combined.

Not many college coaches can claim they coached brothers Peyton and Eli Manning. The two Super Bowl MVP's played for Coach Cut at Tennessee and Ole Miss.

What he has done at Duke is remarkable. Safe to say, if you can win at Duke, you can win anywhere.

Cutcliffe was at Tennessee from 1982-98 when the Vols won five SEC championships and a national championship. Those teams went to 16 bowl games in 17 years and he tutored quarterbacks Andy Kelly, Heath Shuler and Tee Martin in addition to Manning.

Cutcliffe would need a defensive coordinator and what better choice than to bring John Chavis back home? The Chief has worked miracles at LSU as its defensive coordinator and I have no question he could plug some of the holes the current Vols defense is providing opponents.

Tennessee opponents are racing through gaping holes big enough for New Jersey governor Chris Christie to roll up 300 yards.

Chavis left Tennessee after Phillip Fulmer was let go. LSU jumped on him. He is a former walk-on for the Vols and a highly respected defensive coordinator.

He won last year's Frank Broyles Award, given to the top assistant coach in college football. It was a year when LSU's defense finished top-five in four defensive categories, including scoring defense when they gave up an average of 11.29 points a game.

Chavis saw four of his players taken in last year's NFL draft. He has 23 years in the SEC. Seventeen of those have been spent as a coordinator. He was coordinator at Tennessee for 14 years.

Cutcliffe could then fly out to Southern Cal and swipe former Vols quarterback Tee Martin off Lane Kiffin's staff.

Martin is from Alabama, and has developed a solid reputation as a recruiter. His knowledge of the SEC was made even deeper while he operated a football camp in Atlanta for high school prospects.

And how about Dale Jones, one of the more popular linebackers in UT history? He is currently defensive coordinator at Appalachian State. Don't think Tennessee's program wouldn't benefit from the energy and passion Jones would bring across the mountain.

Former quarterback Andy Kelly is on the Vols radio network, working the sidelines during broadcasts. Kelly is an Arena League legend and has done some coaching in that league.

For the past five years, former Vols receiver T.D. Woods was on Tulane's staff. He was with Cutcliffe a couple of years at Ole Miss. I don't know where he is now, but I would think Cutcliffe would and the Gallatin native would be a good recruiter in this state.

Cutcliffe also has success at Ole Miss, taking the Rebels to four bowl games in his six seasons there.

I would think he would jump at an offer to coach Tennessee. His wife, Karen, is from Harriman. Tennessee could easily triple his salary.

Is Cutcliffe the answer? It would be thinking outside the box. You can bet Peyton Manning would give his full support.

It might not be the best choice, but Tennessee has made worse decisions.

And the boys in the band would make some music on a stage they call home.

Sports Columnist Joe Biddle can be reached at

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