Well, I am beginning to think that some of my concerns about the loss of the “family” feeling at Tennessee due to the departure of the Great Punkin may have been unfounded. It appears that Coach Kiffin is dead set on keeping the family side of Tennessee alive—albeit in a slightly different way than I envisioned.
The more I look at things the more the Tennessee Athletic Department mirrors the Soprano family…
[singlepic id=905 w=540 mode=web20 float=center][caption id="" align="alignright" width="111" caption="James Cregg"][/caption]
Thus far, Coach Kiffin has been more than happy to keep it “inside the family,” hiring both his father, Monte Kiffin (longtime defensive coordinator with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) as well as his brother-in-law David Reaves (Steve Spurrier’s quarterbacks’ coach / recruiting coordinator at South Carolina). On top of this, last week he added an additional hire off the South Carolina Gamecocks’ staff in the form of new strength and conditioning coach Mark Smith, along with new offensive line coach James Cregg, who served under the Blackjack General when Kiffin was coaching the Los Angeles Oakland Raiders, and was currently working under Raiders’ coach Tom Cable.
So, is all of this a good thing, or a bad thing?
Well, I am honestly not sure. That said, I like the fact that Kiffin seems to have a plan about what it is he is trying to accomplish—he’s not just randomly selecting coaches that are “available.” In fact, with the exception of the few members of Coach Fulmer’s staff that Kiffin has retained, none of the coaches he has added to his first staff have been “available,” as Tom Cable plainly noted. It is nice to be back in the position as a program to be able to pull people away from other programs, instead of the opposite.
Furthermore, thus far the choices that Kiffin has made to assist him in his first campaign at Tennessee appear to be quality hires. First of all there is the Full Monte, who is the "Godfather" of the Tampa 2 defense and arguably the best defensive coordinator in the toughest football league in the world. The venerable patriarch.
Okay, I think that can work…
Then, there is Mark Smith, who was thought by many to be one of Spurrier’s indispensable aides at both Florida and with the Thunder Chickens. In the past, it was thought that Smith would never leave Spurrier due to the fact he rejected overtures from, among others, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Smith has been at the heart of every successful team that Spurrier has fielded.
Apparently, Smith decided that loyalty to Spurrier could not overcome the pull of “the family”…[caption id="" align="alignright" width="96" caption="David Reaves"][/caption]
Then there is Reaves, who was been surprisingly successful as the Head Ball Coach’s recruiting coordinator, a fact that Tennessee fans had been acutely aware of over the last few years. Obviously, as Lane Kiffin’s brother-in-law it is hardly surprising that Reaves decided to head to more orange-tinted pastures. Still, Spurrier has never been one to let his coaches or recruits go to others quietly. Thus, it also appears that there is about to be a second-round of the Tennessee vs. Spurrier battles that marked the early-to-mid 1990’s—the rumblings are already out there.
Ahh, just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in…
If (and that is a big “if”) you trust the rumors, the oft maligned Ed Orgeron (currently serving as defensive line coach for the New Orleans Saints) is next up for Kiffin as he works toward filling out his staff. Coach “O” did not exactly wow the world with his performance as head coach of the Ole Miss Rebels, but continues to be thought of as one of the premier defensive line coaches and a crackerjack recruiter. Given that all of the rumors of Monte Kiffin joining “Kiffin the Younger,” proved accurate, it appears that the chances are good that “O” will be “hnaw-hnawing” on the sidelines in Neyland Stadium this fall.
Now whether ticking off NFL owners and other SEC coaches is a bad thing, I cannot say. I will say that it is nice to see Lane Kiffin out using his credibility and Tennessee’s tradition to get the people he needs. While I realize there is something to be said for extending certain courtesies to other coaches and teams, sometimes you have to simply make folks an “offer they can’t refuse” and let the chips fall where they may. This is especially true when it comes to re-tooling a program that has bottomed-out of late. Kiffin, responding to questions regarding his tactics, summed it quite matter-of-factly:
“I got a job to do in our athletic department and that’s to put together the best staff we can put together and the best players we can put together. I’m not really concerned about that stuff.”
• via: GoVolsXtra
Kiffin’s coaching-coups, appear to be making a difference as well, as Tennessee has now sewn-up several choice recruits, and appears to be getting the inside track on several more.
So far, so good. Is Kiffin going in the right direction? I think so. Is he destined for greatness? Only time will tell. Is there plenty more to be done to cement Tennessee’s position as a contender once again for the SEC? You better believe it. Is Kiffin done mixing it up with the other coaches across the country yet?
Images Courtesy of: Raiders.com • GameCocksOnline.com
Information contained in this post courtesy of: Volquest.com • GoVolsXtra
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