Sept. 9, 2009
By Michael Austin, Senior Editor www.coachad.com
The No. 1 recruit in the nation has signed. The 2009 recruiting class is ranked No. 10 in the country according to Rivals.com. The coaching staff is regarded as one of the best in America. The new defensive coordinator is an NFL legend. Yes, Lane Kiffin is working toward his goal of making the Tennessee football program "national" again...and a few spicy comments about conference rivals hasn't hurt either.
While most of the media circus focuses on sound bites here and there, all of the fan-frenzied, sport's radio hot-button comments simply deflect attention away from what actually is happening in Knoxville. With just the right coaching and recruiting pieces in place, the Volunteers might soon be ready, once again, to be in the national conversation with conference rivals like Florida, Alabama, Georgia and LSU.
"This program has to go national. We need to recruit everywhere," says Kiffin. "There are some great players in this state but we must look nationally to fill out our roster."
For a squad that went 5-7 last season and is 11 years removed from a national championship, Kiffin explains that making Tennessee national meant first building the coaching staff, then working on changing the mindset of the team.
"The first thing I wanted to do was build the best staff in the country as far as recruiting and teaching. We've accomplished this and I can't imagine it going better," Kiffin says. "We have a great mix of SEC and NFL assistants on our staff.
"Then, the next step was to get the team into a mindset that we're going to be competitive. For me, I didn't care what these players had done before on the field. I want every player to have a clean slate."
Kiffin took the clean-slate idea to an extreme by not allowing his assistant coaches to watch any tape of last year's team except for "just enough to learn what we need for recruiting."
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