With new athletic director Danny White in place at Tennessee, White and the Volunteers have their crosshairs set on Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott to be their new head coach.
The Clemson Insider confirmed Tennessee has strong interest in Elliott being its next head coach. A lot of it is due to the fact White and Elliott already have an established relationship, one that began in December of 2017 when Elliott won the Frank Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in college football.
At the time, White was at UCF and was looking for a new head coach there after Scott Frost accepted the same position at Nebraska. The Knights turned their eyes, at least for a moment, to Elliott.
However, the timing was not right for Elliott, who was also being courted for the Mississippi State head coaching vacancy at the time. He declined to interview for either job. Why? Clemson was in the middle of another run at a national championship and Elliott has always said he will not entertain other coaching jobs while a season is going on.
“I think any time you are in this position you want to aspire to reach the highest level, so I think it is a tremendous honor to even be considered,” he said back in December of 2017. “I have a lot of things that I need to work on. I’m trying to be the best offensive coordinator I can be. Clemson is home, Coach [Dabo] Swinney has been unbelievable to me and my family and the timing wasn’t right.”
Over the last three years, Elliott has been mentioned for several jobs. And though many have considered him the top coordinator to take a head coaching job, he has declined any overtures he has received.
In a 2018 article written by Pete Thamel from Yahoo, Elliott admitted for the first time he started looking at his future and running a college football program one day.
“What are you looking for in a head coach?” Swinney said of Elliott in the Yahoo article. “Character? Intelligence? And commitment? And loyalty? Knowledge? Someone who loves players and is going to do things the right way. He’s a pretty good candidate.”
Since the 2020 regular season ended, Elliott’s name again has come up as a serious candidate for several jobs. His named was linked to the Auburn job according to several reports back in December, as well as offensive coordinator positions at Seattle and Miami in the NFL.
He declined them all. Why? It just was not the right time.
“There have been several people that called, and my process is, if they ask me if I have interest, I say, ‘Look, I have to talk about it with my wife. I have to pray about it and look for confirmation,’” Elliott said after the 2020 ACC Championship Game on Dec. 19. “I have said it before, and I will say it again. Money does not matter to me. Status does not matter to me. I believe I am living a purpose filled life and my purpose is to be here at Clemson right now. When the Lord opens the door, then I will transition.”
Has the door opened in Tennessee? Elliott admitted after the ACC Championship Game that he was seeking representation, but he had not signed with an agent at that point.
“I have been going through the process,” he said at the time. “I have not officially signed any paperwork. I am kind of honing in on some individuals that are up in my top pick of guys I have met. That is something that I am not real comfortable with. That is not me. That is not how I progress through this. I am trying to weed through it. I have an idea of who I want to go with, but I have not officially signed any paperwork.
“A lot of the other transactions that have taken place in terms of interest, it has always come through a search firm by reaching out directly to me to see if I have interest.”
As of Saturday afternoon, TCI confirmed Tennessee is strongly interested in Elliott being their next head coach. However, from what we have been told, Elliott has not spoken with the Volunteers.
Finally, the timing is right for Elliott to speak with another school about being its head coach. Now the question is, is Tennessee the right job for Elliott to consider, especially with everything that has allegedly gone on in Knoxville?