Phillip Fulmer looks over as University of Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport speaks during a news conference, Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, in Knoxville, Tenn., where Fulmer was named athletic director. The university placed former AD John Currie on paid leave amid what has been a tumultuous and embarrassing football coaching search. (Calvin Mattheis/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)

KNOXVILLE — Today's picture painted onto the iconic rock at the corner of Volunteer Boulevard and Pat Head Summitt Street on the University of Tennessee campus featured some campaign messaging.

"Miles Martin '18," the rock read. It was an apparent reference to the painter's desire to see former LSU coach Les Miles as Tennessee's football head coach with Southern California offensive coordinator Tee Martin as his No. 2 man.

After a flurry of widely publicized interviews with coaching candidates last week, today felt quiet around the Tennessee coaching search, rock graffiti aside.

New athletic director Phillip Fulmer is expected to be in New York on Tuesday night for the National Football Foundation awards dinner, where former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning will be honored for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

The event is an annual who's who of college football stardom, and it could give Fulmer an opportunity to speak with coaching candidates. According to one report today, the 67-year-old former Volunteers coach already has interviewed several potential coaches.

facebook reported that Fulmer has contacted Miles, Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables and SMU coach Chad Morris.

The report from FootballScoop cited a source who indicated that Fulmer would like to have a coach hired by the end of Tuesday.

A Sunday report from the Times Free Press mentioned Miles, Steele and Morris, among others, as potential candidates. Venables and Tucker are names that have received less attention during Tennessee's search.

Venables has been Clemson's defensive coordinator since 2012. Before that he served 13 years as the defensive coordinator or co-defensive coordinator at Oklahoma. The 46-year-old former Kansas State player has been a regular target for schools seeking a head coach in the past.

"My focus is completely on this game and this week and the great job that I do have and the great players that I get to coach every day," Venables said in the day leading up to Clemson's ACC title victory. "My focus is right here. I've got a great job, and I've said that many, many times. And I'm very thankful and grateful for that.

"We're in a great position, so why would I worry about what's on the other side of the fence? I've always felt that way. If people have interest, that's part of it. You either decide to listen or not."

Tucker is in his second season as Georgia's defensive coordinator. The 45-year-old has a deep resume of college and NFL assistant coaching experience, as well as a stint as interim head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011.

Smith All-SEC

Tennessee freshman offensive lineman Trey Smith received Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference second-team distinction today. He also is considered a candidate for Freshman All-America honors.

The Jackson, Tenn., resident was the only offensive lineman to start every game for the Vols this season. He made eight starts at right guard, three at left tackle and one at left guard and was UT's highest-rated offensive lineman behind senior Jashon Robertson.

Wolf in East-West

Tennessee senior tight end Ethan Wolf will play in the East-West Shrine Game next month. Wolf will be the 48th player in school history to play in the game, which started in 1925.

Wolf started 47 games in his Tennessee career and caught 91 passes for 998 yards and seven touchdowns. He ranks second in school history for catches by a tight end behind Reggie Harper, who had 98. Wolf ranks third in receiving yards by a tight end.

The game will be played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., at 3 p.m. on Jan. 20. It will be televised by the NFL Network.

Contact David Cobb at

Vols head football coach search