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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The search for coaching in Tennessee has certainly gone a long and tortuous, and very rugged.
And it's not over yet.
However, the new sports director of Vols, Phillip Fulmer, is surely close to his final choice.
SEC Country learned about Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, SMU head coach Chad Morris and Clemson Defensive coordinator Brent Venables is three candidates who have emerged as finalists.
RELATED: Kevin Steele among the 3 candidates that have emerged
Other reports have included Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt in the mix.  Steele, a finalist for the Broyles Award as the country's best assistant coach, has been a former coach at Baylor but was not very successful.
That led some to wonder how or why the 59-year-old could be a finalist.
That makes …
Today's question of the day
– Adam Crews (@chasethemtn) December 5, 2017
My thinking is Steele, because he played in Tennessee, has the most experience and was able to put together the best team and do the best job of recruiting.
Steele was the head coach at Baylor from 1999 to 2002, when the facilities of that program were completely lacking, and his record of 9-36 reflects that fact.
But it's 15 years later, and Steele has trained under the orders of Bobby Bowden at Florida State, Nick Saban in Alabama, Dabo Swinney at Clemson, Les Miles at LSU and Gus Malzahn at Auburn.
Steele has a reputation as one of the best recruiters in the nation, and could gather a strong staff with SEC experience.
This is what Steele said last Saturday when he was asked about being linked to Tennessee work. :
"Well, I was on the team there – not a very good player, but I was on the team, (and) I got a title there," Steele said. "I love my school, but other than that, they have not told me anything, I'm working for Auburn, and I'm proud to do it."
Would you consider going back to Tennessee?
"I have a pretty good job," Steele said. "I have a pretty good job."
Steele ties in Tennessee: was recruited by Johnny Majors and also trained under Majors and along with Fulmer as a graduate assistant and linebackers (1980-1983) and defensive backs coach (1987-1988).
Peyton Manning in Tennessee: & # 39; Support whoever our next coach & # 39;