KNOXVILLE - Several former Tennessee football players have voiced their support for Southern California offensive coordinator Tee Martin as Tennessee's coaching search takes a new direction following a tumultuous weekend.
Martin, who led the Volunteers to the 1998 national championship as the team's quarterback, is in his sixth season at USC and second as the team's offensive coordinator. The Trojans play Stanford on Friday night in the Pac-12 championship game.
A deal between Tennessee and Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano fell apart Sunday in the wake of fan backlash, and reports from numerous media outlets Monday indicated that Martin is among those whom Tennessee athletic director John Currie is considering in his renewed quest to replace the fired Butch Jones.
"Tennessee needs to hire Tee Martin period," Martin's former Tennessee teammate Dwayne Goodrich wrote on Twitter. "It makes sense. Great man, amazing recruiter and coach and relates to the young men. Make it happen Currie."
Martin has never been a head coach, but USC head coach Clay Helton told reporters Monday that Martin "is going to be an exceptional" coach when he does land his first head coaching job.
"It's an opportunity that I think he's ready for when the time comes, and I've always been thankful for each and every day that I've had Tee Martin here," Helton said. "I knew that at some point in time it will end, but he is, like I said before, he is the most complete coach I've ever been around and I know that his day is coming to lead a program, and whoever decides to make him their head coach is going to get a very valuable commodity."
Darwin Walker, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Aaron Hayden, Byron Moore and Albert Haynesworth are among the other former Volunteers who have publicly voiced support for Martin. Before going to USC, Martin was an assistant at New Mexico and Kentucky.
The 39-year-old Mobile, Ala., native told the Knoxville News Sentinel last December that "it would have to be the right situation and timing" for Martin to consider a return to Tennessee, where a street is named after him.
"But Tennessee is the only other team I watch on TV and have any emotion about other than USC," Martin told the News Sentinel.
Martin succeeded Peyton Manning as Tennessee's quarterback for the 1998 season. He went 22-3 in his two seasons as the starter and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Martin began coaching in 2006 and landed his first Division 1 job in 2009 as the quarterbacks coach at New Mexico.
USC ranks 10th in the country in total offense this year. The 10-2 Trojans are 11th in the most recent College Football Playoff standings. Martin's lack of head coaching experience presumably is a concern for Currie and Tennessee boosters driving the decision, but his legendary status within the fan base could make him a popular hire.
Other candidates who could be in consideration:
David Cutcliffe (Duke head coach): The 63-year-old former longtime Tennessee assistant could be a calming influence in Knoxville.
Jeff Brohm (Purdue head coach): Brohm got Purdue bowl-eligible in his first season there after having success at Western Kentucky.
Names to watch: Dave Doeren (North Carolina State head coach), Chad Morris (Southern Methodist head coach), Bobby Petrino (Louisville head coach), Kacy Rodgers (New York Jets defensive coordinator), Dave Clawson (Wake Forest head coach), Willie Taggart (Oregon head coach).
Contact David Cobb at email@example.com.