Before he was an assistant coach in the NFL, Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was a backup quarterback at Tennessee.

Could Cooter return to his alma mater? With Tennessee firing head coach Butch Jones on Sunday, the Sporting News writes the Lions offensive coordinator would be a good fit in Knoxville, listing him as one of its nine top candidates for the head job with the Volunteers.

Cooter played in just three games while at Tennessee, but quickly has made a name for himself in the NFL.

“Cooter played at Tennessee, and he has excelled as the offensive coordinator for the NFL’s Detroit Lions,” Bill Bender of the Sporting News writes. “He fits, but he has no college experience since serving as a (graduate assistant) for the Vols in 2007-08. Cooter, however is 33 years old and would appease those who want a local guy running the program. Would (former head coach Phillip) Fulmer influence this hire?”


Cooter has been on the Lions’ staff since 2014, spending the last three seasons as the offensive coordinator, where he’s been credited with elevating quarterback Matthew Stafford’s game. He’s also been on coaching staffs for the Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, and Denver Broncos, working with surefire Hall-of-Fame quarterback Peyton Manning at Indianapolis and Denver.

Also making the Sporting News’ list is Les Miles, the former Michigan offensive lineman who also was on the Wolverines’ coaching staff from 1987-94 before making a name for himself as a head coach at Oklahoma State and LSU, where he won a national title in 2007.

“Miles turned 64 on Friday, and he isn’t a long-term option,” Bender writes. “But if Tennessee doesn’t like the unproven options, then Miles, who has a proven track record in the SEC and could feasibly build for the next three to five years and leave the next coach in good shape, would be worth giving a call. Miles is 141-55 for his career.”

And, what of Brady Hoke, the former Michigan head coach who is taking over for Jones (a former Central Michigan coach) in an interim capacity? He didn’t make the top nine.