Georgia, Auburn defensive coordinators interview again with Tennessee

Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker both had second interviews with Tennessee officials, including athletic director Phillip Fulmer and chancellor Beverly Davenport, on Tuesday in New York City, sources told ESPN.

On Wednesday, Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is scheduled to have his second interview with Tennessee officials after meeting with Fulmer on Monday in Dallas.

In addition, Fulmer and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin spoke extensively by phone Tuesday morning, and sources close to Martin told ESPN that it was a "very positive conversation moving in the right direction."

Tucker, 45, is in his second season on Georgia coach Kirby Smart's staff and previously worked with Smart at Alabama in 2015, when they helped the Crimson Tide win a national championship. Tucker was also formerly a defensive coordinator in the NFL with the Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns, and he served as the Jaguars' interim coach for the final five games of the 2011 season.

This season, the Bulldogs rank in the top five among FBS teams in passing defense (158.3 yards per game), scoring defense (13.2 points) and total defense (270.9 yards).

Tucker, a semifinalist for the Broyles Award as college football's top assistant coach, is a native of Cleveland and played defensive back at Wisconsin from 1990 to 1994.

Steele, 59, has directed Auburn's defense the past two seasons, after previously working as an assistant at LSU, Alabama, Clemson and Florida State. He was the head coach at Baylor from 1999 to 2002, where he compiled a 9-36 record. He played linebacker at Tennessee in 1978-79.

Martin, 39, quarterbacked Tennessee to the 1998 national championship and played under Fulmer for the Vols.

Pruitt, 43, is in his second season as Alabama's defensive coordinator under Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide, headed to the College Football Playoff for the fourth straight year, are ranked first nationally in scoring defense this season and second nationally in total defense. Pruitt is also regarded as one of the top recruiters in the SEC. As an assistant coach, he has been part of four national championship teams.

A former defensive back at Alabama, Pruitt served two different stints on the Crimson Tide staff under Saban. He was initially there from 2007-12, the last three seasons as defensive backs coach. Pruitt was also the defensive coordinator at Florida State on the Seminoles' 2013 national championship team and was the defensive coordinator at Georgia under Mark Richt for two seasons in 2014-15 before returning to his alma mater.

Fulmer, who replaced John Currie as Tennessee's athletic director last week, is expected to interview other candidates in New York as well after making initial contact with candidates in Dallas earlier this week.

SMU head coach Chad Morris and Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables also are considered potential replacements for Butch Jones, who was fired after compiling a 34-27 record in six seasons with the Volunteers.

At a news conference for the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday, former Vols star Peyton Manning addressed the coaching search: "Obviously, it's been a difficult time, but I know what Tennessee is capable of being: It's what it was when I was in school there. I've been a devout supporter and always will be and look forward to hopefully getting it back to where it was back when I was in school. Great place."

Georgia will play No. 2 Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual on New Year's Day.

Auburn, which lost to Georgia in the SEC championship game, will face UCF in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl that same day in a New Year's Six game.

ESPN's Adam Rittenberg contributed to this report.