Tennessee fans are familiar with Ron Zook.
The Big Orange faithful last saw their Vols defeat the Florida Gators under Zook’s tenure in 2003 and 2004.
However, a name most Tennesseans probably won’t recognize from the Florida Gator’s staff under Zook is associated with the opening for the head coaching job at the University of Tennessee.
And no, I’m not talking about Charlie Strong – head coach at Louisville and former defensive coordinator at UF.
The name that I fully expect to be named as head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers is former Gators assistant, Larry Fedora.
Fedora served as the run game coordinator in 2002, the passing game coordinator in 2003 and the offensive coordinator in 2004 for Florida.
Under his command in Zook’s final season as head coach, Fedora led the Gators offense to a combined 372 points on the season with his play calling.
For comparison sakes, UT’s high octane offense this season combined for 434 points.
But you may ask what Fedora has been up to since 2004 and why Dave Hart would want to hire him, and I’m going to answer both.
Fedora was hired in 2008 as head coach of the Southern Miss Golden Eagles, following a three year stint in Stillwater, Okla. as the offensive coordinator for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Following a 4-7 season in year 1, the Cowboys improved to win seven games each of the next two years – including a victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2006 Independence Bowl.
Upon arrival to Southern Miss, Fedora posted four consecutive winning seasons for a combined 34-19, 20-12 record. In his final season with the Golden Eagles, Fedora led his program to a 12-2 record, with both losses coming by a combined nine points.
The coach was hired last year to replace interim Tar Heels head coach Everett Withers, who filled in the 2011 season for NCAA-plagued Butch Davis, at the University of North Carolina. Fedora’s squad tied for first in the ACC Coastal division with an 8-4 record, with three of the four losses by nine total points.
With experience in Mississippi, Florida, North Carolina and the state of Tennessee – with a three year stint at MTSU as Offensive Coordinator from 1999 to 2001 – in college football recruiting, Fedora understands not only the Southeastern Conference, but also the importance of recruiting for the Vols and their need to recruit outside the state.
The Tar Heels 2013 recruiting class currently ranks 20th on Rivals, compared to the Vols at No. 26, and his 2012 class ranked 44th after beginning his duties as the Tar Heels head coach just a month before national signing day.
As a Golden Eagle, Fedora landed a Rivals five star player in his initial class that ranked 37th in the nation. Each of his next two classes ranked No. 53 in their respective years without the high profile addition of a five star.
Assistant coaching changes hurt Fedora’s final class, which marked a career low for the head coach at No. 85 in the nation.
Born and raised in Texas, Fedora’s playing career, and first three jobs in football were held in the Longhorn State, which the Vols have tried to recruit with minimal success.
In combination with recruiting, Fedora’s offensive prowess could help Tennessee maintain its high octane scoring machine.
If named the Vols coach, and with big names like Stoops, Fisher and Gruden reportedly all giving no-go signals to the Vols it is seeming more and more likely, Fedora’s first order of business will need to be fixing a defense. Could a certain unemployed former head coach, recruiting star and defensive guru in Zook be the guy for the job?
With North Carolina’s season over, Vol fans could see an announcement as early as next week. Based on how the search is going, don’t be surprised if Fedora is your guy.