After eight seasons as head football coach, Russ Huesman left the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Wednesday to take the same position at Richmond. To determine who is next to lead the Mocs, the UTC administration could look outward or internal.
Linebackers coach Rusty Wright would be a good candidate from within, having spent four seasons at UTC as a player (1992 to '95) and two stints as an assistant (1996 to 2002) in a variety of roles before coming back in 2013 to his current title of linebackers coach and special teams coordinator. Another name to watch for is Mocs offensive coordinator Jeff Durden, whose 2016 offense averaged 412.5 yards and 34.2 points per game.
Outside the program, vice chancellor and athletic director David Blackburn has already started to put together a very impressive list of candidates to replace Huesman. The Times Free Press has put together a list of 12 who have either already been contacted by UTC or could be reached out to soon:
- David Bibee, Middle Tennessee State safeties coach: Bibee is familiar with the Chattanooga landscape, having been the head coach at Baylor School for six seasons before taking a job as a secondary coach at UTC in 2006, where he was part of a staff that led a defense with 23 interceptions and 75 pass breakups in two seasons. Sources told the Times Free Press he was "trying to get his name involved" in the process.
-Thomas Brown, Miami offensive coordinator/running backs coach: The former University of Georgia running back was UTC's running backs coach in 2012, and he spent the three seasons after that with the same title during stops at Marshall, Wisconsin and Georgia before adding offensive coordinator to his title in Mark Richt's first season as coach of the Hurricanes. It could mean a drop in his salary, but the added title of being a head coach could be too much to pass up.
- Jamey Chadwell, Charleston Southern coach: Chadwell knows the landscape of this portion of the state, having grown up in Knoxville and played his college ball at East Tennessee State. He is 35-14 in four seasons leading the Crusaders and has been named Big South coach of the year three times. The move to UTC would be an improvement in conditions and salary.
- Mark Elder, Eastern Kentucky coach: Elder spent three seasons as the tight ends coach and special teams coordinator at the University of Tennessee before taking his current job a year ago. The Colonials went 3-8 this season, but Elder has ties to Blackburn from when the two were at Tennessee together.
- Will Healy, Austin Peay coach: Healy just finished his first season leading the Governors after seven seasons at UTC as wide receivers coach, passing game coordinator and recruiting coordinator. Known as one of the top recruiters at the Football Championship Subdivision level, he inherited a program that had lost 16 straight games and scored 20 or more points just once in that stretch. This season Austin Peay was still winless, but the Governors scored 20 or more points six times.
- Dale Jones, Appalachian State inside linebackers coach: Jones is in his 21st season as an assistant for the Mountaineers. With the program's history in the Southern Conference, he's well aware of the landscape, having recruited players such as former Red Bank standout Dominique McDuffie. He also knows the region, having played at Bradley Central and the University of Tennessee.
- Bobby Lamb, Mercer coach: Although seemingly a choice out of left field, a source told the Times Free Press that Lamb would probably be "very interested in the job." Lamb spent nine seasons as Furman's head coach, with a 67-40 record and four playoff appearances in what was a smaller field then. He is 27-19 in four seasons at Mercer, and his brother Hal is the head coach at nearby Calhoun (Ga.) High School.
- Andy McCollum, Georgia Tech linebackers coach/recruiting coordinator: Recently a finalist for the Georgia State opening, McCollum spent seven seasons as a head coach at Middle Tennessee State and led it to the 2001 Sun Belt championship. The Austin Peay graduate is another coach reportedly "trying to get involved" in the search.
- Randy Sanders, Florida State co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach: Sanders has a long history as an offensive coordinator and is known for developing quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning and Jameis Winston. He could be ready to take on the challenge of being a head coach, and with his long, extensive history at Tennessee, he has a prior relationship with Blackburn that could come into play.
- Marcus Satterfield, Tennessee Tech coach: Satterfield went 5-6 this year in his first season with the Golden Eagles. He was the offensive coordinator at Temple prior to that, helping turn a struggling program around to a conference divisional championship, 10-win season and first top-25 ranking in 36 years, as well as a bowl appearance for the 2015 season. He played at Greenback, which is near Blackburn's hometown of Loudon, and Satterfield's father Bill and Blackburn are friends. Satterfield attended Chattanooga State before becoming a three-year letterman at East Tennessee State, and he had two stints on the UTC staff, including as Huesman's offensive coordinator from 2009 to '12.
- Bob Shoop, Tennessee defensive coordinator: With a number of people believing this could be coach Butch Jones' last season in Knoxville, a number of assistants might be trying to "get off the sinking ship," sources said. Shoop is in his first season with the Vols after previously working at Penn State, but he spent three seasons as an assistant at Vanderbilt and has a son who plays football at Father Ryan High School, so he knows the state well. Like Sanders, he could be looking for an opportunity as a head coach.
- Jason Simpson, UT-Martin coach: The longest-tenured coach in the Ohio Valley Conference, Simpson has spent 11 seasons with the Skyhawks and was a finalist for the UTC job during the search that ended with Huesman being hired before the 2009 season. He was offensive coordinator for the Mocs from 2003 to '05, and he used that job to become the UT-Martin coach in 2006. He won a OVC title in his first season but could be looking for a new opportunity after a 7-5 mark (6-2 in the conference) wasn't enough to earn his team a spot in the FCS playoffs due to what was considered a weak league.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.