Sunday, November 30, 2008

10 Suggestions for Lane Kiffin

1. Convince Rico McCoy and Dan Williams to return

Outside linebacker Rico McCoy and defensive tackle Dan Williams are the only starters Kiffin and his father will have returning from the Vols’ front seven. That is, if the Kiffins can convince them to stay at UT for their senior year.

The sell should not be too difficult as neither is ready to contribute in the NFL nor are they likely to get high round NFL draft grades. However, losing one or both to the NFL could have a catastrophic effect on next year’s run defense.

2. Hold the '09 recruiting class intact

The Vols current freshman class shows very little promise either offensively or defensively, so it is important that Kiffin go to work on the recruiting trail immediately so that the ’09 class does not end up looking like the ’08 one.

Fulmer and his staff had put together a nice recruiting class before he was fired and it seems as most of the recruits that decommitted or showed wavering interest is still in play.

3. Give Trooper Taylor a call

Trooper Taylor was a fan and player favorite over his four years as an assistant coach in Knoxville before leaving to become the co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State. Truth be told, had Fulmer taken a gamble last spring and hired Taylor instead of Dave Clawson as his offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin probably would not be taking over this week.

Kiffin is likely to call the plays and manage the offense for the foreseeable future, so you could argue that there is relatively low risk involved with bringing Taylor back to Knoxville as offensive coordinator. Plus, Taylor is a heralded national recruiter who would bring yet another star to Lane Kiffin’s recruiting dream team.

4. Keep a couple of Fulmer’s assistants

Kiffin does not want to risk alienating Vols’ fans or more importantly Vols’ players by dumping every single assistant coach employed by the program. The fact is that Phil Fulmer leaves behind a very talented coaching staff, with the exception of failed first year offensive coordinator Dave Clawson.

Running backs coach Stan Drayton is at the top of the list of assistants Kiffin should consider retaining. Defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell and Defensive backs coach Larry Slade are veterans of the staff that Kiffin would be wise to keep on board. Tight ends coach Jason Michael has a lot of time invested in the Vols’ four tight ends and would also be an asset to Kiffin.

5. Learn everything you can from Bruce Pearl

Pearl mastered the transition from Tennessee outsider to revered family member like it has never been done before. He captured the hearts of Vols’ fans and transformed Tennessee into a football AND basketball state in just three years. Kiffin could learn a lot about salesmanship and leadership from Bruce Pearl.

6. Don't overwhelm the offense next year

It’s expected that Kiffin will bring a pro-style offense to Tennessee. That’s fine, but he should not try to re-teach every single thing these young football players know about the game between now and next August. Dave Clawson tried that and his offense was a miserable failure as a result.

7. Reunite Vol Nation

Kiffin steps in to one of the best jobs in college football, except that at the moment there are still major divisions in the Tennessee football family due to Fulmer’s dismissal just one season after playing for the SEC Championship. It will be important that Kiffin play the role of “uniter “ over the next several months.

8. Promote the Tampa Bay Cover 2 featuring the “Berry and Morley Show”

Defensively, the front seven will be young and no one will have a clue what to expect from the Vols’ offense next year. However, the Vols’ will return the most talented secondary in the SEC featuring two of the finest safeties in the country. Eric Berry will appear on Heisman Trophy lists at the beginning of next season and Demetrice Morley will be yet another in a long line of Tennessee safeties in the NFL.

Kiffin should capitalize early and often on the star power of Berry and Morley in his father’s famous “Tampa Bay Cover 2” coverage scheme. The “Berry and Morley Show” could be the gridiron version of the famed “Ernie and Bernie Show” that shined on the hardwood in the late 70s.

9. Talk to B.J. Coleman about being your team leader

For years now the Vols have lacked outspoken player leadership similar to the type shown by Peyton Manning and Al Wilson in the late 90s. Quarterback B.J. Coleman has the confidence of his teammates and the leadership ability to make Lane Kiffin’s job much easier.

Kiffin should focus his attention immediately on grooming Coleman to be his starting quarterback for the next three years. It’s a move that could pay dividends for Kiffin down the road.

10. Reconcile with Fulmer’s loyalists

Kiffin can’t afford to lose the former players and boosters who were on Fulmer’s side through this whole process.

In due time, Kiffin needs to approach and ask for the support of those who were outspoken in their defense of Fulmer such as Chattanooga booster John “Thunder” Thornton and the numerous former players who expressed disappointment in their alma mater over the decision.

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