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Phil Fulmer’s search for next Vols head coach drawing to a close

Jeremy Pruitt

With meetings ongoing surrounding the National Football Foundation events in New York City, Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer-led coaching search appears to be drawing near its conclusion.

Three candidates are undergoing second interviews with Fulmer’s University of Tennessee contingent in the Big Apple: Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt; Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele; and Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.

One source said Fulmer is perhaps finishing not his second, but third talk with Tucker, the former Wisconsin player who owns a deep college and NFL resumè.

Steele has the most head coaching experience of the trio, but his time atop the Baylor program long ago hardly evokes positive memories. Steele’s career 9-36 ledger overshadows, in terms of a head coaching position, his overall solid work as a veteran defensive coordinator.

Pruitt is the youngest of the grouping and draws strength from successful stops at Alabama, Florida State, Georgia and again at Alabama.

“I like (Pruitt’s) grind! He will be relentless,” a veteran SEC staffer who’s had personal interactions with the three candidates receiving second interviews told me off-the-record. “I agree with (Pruitt being considered) for all the reasons (mentioned).

“I like Tucker A LOT too. I’ve met him a few times and always walked away very impressed. I think those two can be great, I think Steele, in my opinion, is the clear 3rd.”

It continues to be indicated that Tee Martin could “likely be in position” to join the staff of multiple candidates as the Vols’ offensive coordinator. If Martin does not land the Tennessee head coaching position – and he remains in the mix, although on the periphery – it’s obvious there are plenty of people around the program who want to see him back at the school and positioned for the head coaching job in the future.

Martin and Tennessee have been in communication about the future of the coaching position at UT and the staff, although whether these conversations could be considered a “formal interview” for the head coaching vacancy is debatable.

Fulmer, per sources, still is targeting a conclusion of the search in the next 24 to 48 hours. He’s emphasizing the need for the next coach to be in position to begin to try and salvage the Vols’ 2018 recruiting class beginning with visits this weekend.

Les Miles, Chad Morris and Brent Venables, barring any late-breaking changes, do not appear to be in Fulmer’s plans for UT at this point.

RELATED: Vols next head coach can win in future, must unite fan base now.

(You can follow John Brice on Twitter @JohnDBrice1)

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