Lane Kiffin may get the last laugh

We all know the Hollywood saying “Any publicity is good publicity.”

Could this apply to Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin? Is this his “secret” recruiting strategy? In the end, will Kiffin get the last laugh on his detractors?  It sounds ridiculous, until you look at everything strictly from the standpoint of recruiting.

Brief recap: Kiffin has appeared to set a Guinness world record for “ticking off the most SEC coaches in the shortest span.” Barely two months on the job at Rocky Top, Kiffin has taken shots at Florida, Alabama and Georgia. He made the biggest news with “cheating accusations” toward Florida’s Urban Meyer, coach of the reigning BCS champions.

One could say (and many are outside of the Orange Nation) that “never before has a coach been this brash, this bold, this quickly … without coaching his first college game.” And that was the PG-13 version of summing up public opinion. Kiffin’s moves appear to be reckless and out of control.

However, from a recruiting standpoint, Kiffin’s comments appear to be calculated and (yikes) brilliant. Think about it for a moment. Where does Tennessee get most of its football recruits? It’s not the state of Tennessee, and never has been. The Volunteers traditionally recruit very well in surrounding states, including Georgia and … yes, you guessed it … Florida, which is arguably the nation’s most fertile ground for college prospects. Maybe there was a reason why Kiffin saved his best shot for Urban Meyer.

From a recruiting perspective, what Kiffin has done with his Q rating in two months is nothing short of spectacular.  He’s got “rock star” status. Kids may love him or hate him, but just about all know who he is. And that’s quite an accomplishment for a newbie in a conference full of coaching legends.

To fully understand the point, you have to look at everything as if you are one of the nation’s top juniors, or 2010 prospects. These are kids who were born 10 years after Bear Bryant died, and probably don’t know that Steve Spurrier coached at Florida, and are almost certainly unaware he won the Heisman Trophy there. Yet they can quote Kiffin from last week’s soundbites on ESPN.

To test our Lane Kiffin-is-smarter-than-you-may-think theory, we randomly called one of the nation’s top juniors, or 2010 prospects. Tailback Mack Brown of Atlanta’s M.L. King High has around 15 early scholarship offers, including Florida, Alabama, UGA, Auburn, Clemson, and Tennessee. He is a candidate to be the state’s No. 1 recruit for next year.

Brown was asked if he knew the name of Tennessee’s first-year coach? “Lane Kiffin, and I talked to him Wednesday,” Brown said without hesitating.

How about Clemson’s new coach? “They offered me yesterday [Thursday.]” Brown paused. “No sir. I talked to the running backs coach. I’m not sure about the head coach. Sorry.”

What about Auburn? They have a new guy, too. Brown momentarily paused and said, “That’s Coach Chizik, yes, Chizik. Is that right?” Correct. Brown was asked if he knew Chizik’s first name like he did with Kiffin. “No sir. But I can call my coach and find out.”

Regarding recruiting, Lane Kiffin may get the last laugh on everyone.

121 comments Add your comment

nicholas lange

July 13th, 2009
2:55 am

I think Lane and the Vols are gonna rip the SEC a new one; and just might be the kind of thing to kick off a new tradition or two. With the crew he has to work with, he ain’t got to teach a whole lot of base skills, but durability is gonna be a factor early, with animosity high down home an’ up’naroun’ yonder.