USC landed the No. 1 recruiting class in the Rivals.com rankings for three consecutive seasons from 2004 until 2006, signing 16 prospects with five-star ratings from the service in that three-year span. Kiffin was instrumental in helping the Trojans through this unprecedented run of success, during which USC placed a premium on dominating their talent-rich home state.
After returning from the NFL, Kiffin returned to the college ranks in 2009 taking on the head coaching position at Tennessee. Kiffin's impact on the recruiting trail was immediate for what had become a stale and talent-starved program, with the Volunteers landing back-to-back top ten recruiting classes under Kiffin in 2009 and 2010. Those two classes included 24 prospects rated four stars or better by Rivals.com, including several players who served key roles for the Volunteers last season such as running back Rajion Neal and offensive linemen James Stone and Jawuan James.
After returning to USC to serve as head coach, Kiffin once again found immediate success recruiting on the West Coast, landing the No. 4 class in the nation in 2011. Once scholarship limitations were imposed due to NCAA sanctions against the Trojans, Kiffin's subsequent classes were significantly smaller but no less talent-rich. With just 15 total signees in his 2012 signing class, Kiffin managed to land the No. 8 class in the nation. With just 12 total signees in 2013, Kiffin still landed the No. 13 class in the nation, with five of USC's 12 signees rated as five-star prospects.
This is a nice rundown of Kiffin's recruiting exploits. The most recent class at USC is particularly impressive to me. Despite facing sanctions and only signing 12 players, he managed to land five 5-star players? That's pretty dang impressive.
When I went to Knoxville in April 2009 to do a story on Tennessee's new coach, I didn't know much more about Lane Kiffin beyond the impression he had given the nation with his obnoxious, look-at-us approach. But when I met with Kiffin for a 30-minute interview in his office, I didn't find the Mouth of the South.
Instead, I found a coach with, yes, a most unique outlook on football and how to develop a winning college program. But I also found a guy who seemed genuinely likeable. He was intense and maybe even a bit edgy. But he also was thoughtful and thought-provoking and demonstrated that there was a method behind his madness.
This is a very interesting read that provides some insight about Kiffin that most of us didn't already have.
But what Saban remembers about Kiffin is different than most people. He remembers how competitive Tennessee was between the white lines that season, how the outmanned Vols nearly upset the eventual national champion Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa and the splendid job Kiffin did with quarterback Jonathan Crompton. Before Kiffin’s arrival, Crompton struggled mightily. But he prospered during his senior season under Kiffin and was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL draft.
Not that anybody in Tuscaloosa needs to be reminded, but the Crimson Tide will be starting anew at quarterback next season with AJ McCarron departing, so bringing in somebody who has a history of developing/retooling a quarterback was critical.
There will be some who point to USC’s struggles on offense the last couple of seasons and wonder if Kiffin is genuinely all that as an offensive guru. But rest assured that Saban has done his homework.
Crompton's success is about as good a testimony as you get for a coach. In '09, an otherwise mediocre Crompton completed 58% of his passes for 2,800 yards with 27 TDs and 13 INTs. If he could accomplish that with an unintimidating roster and an average talent like Crompton, he could put up some big numbers given the talent at Bama.
No, not even Lane Kiffin, who was hired Friday as Alabama's offensive coordinator, is a big enough of a personality to disrupt Nick Saban's "one voice" approach, which not only keeps his assistants and coordinators away from interviews, but also limits their chances of inviting "clutter" inside the walls of his program.
Barring a change of plans, Kiffin won't meet with the media until August. So, while Kiffin's shortcomings as a head coach -- and there were a few -- are easy headline fodder, they're largely irrelevant to his current assignment: Improve and innovate Alabama's offensive attack while maintaining the core principles and philosophies that Saban values.
This is the one concern that fans have that I can understand. Kiffin will pose no problems as a loudmouth, because he won't be able to talk to the media. The behind the scenes concerns of Kiffin promoting a non-Process-oriented attitude are legitimate, though I don't anticipate it will be an issue, given the stranglehold that Saban maintains on the program.
Vanderbilt's James Franklin has left to become the head football coach at Penn State. PSU announced it this morning with a press release, and it will introduce Franklin at 4:15 pm this afternoon. Franklin is favored to win the press conference by 50.5 points in the latest line from Vegas.
There's not much to be said about Franklin at this point that we haven't yet said. He guided Vandy in 2012 to its first nine-win season since 1915, and this year he made it two nine-win seasons in a row for the first time ever. He brought energy and excitement to a program that lacked it for a long, long time, and he leaves it in the best shape its ever been in.
Not a surprise, but now it is official. Time for a SEC head coach search. Let that carousel spin!