Kiffin working the phones to find Volunteer players and coaches
New Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin is already reaching out to recruits
Kiffin is trying to bring his father, Monte, in as his defensive coordinator
Notre Dame recruits are often overrated by recruiting services
Lane Kiffin, still more than 24 hours away from his official introduction as Tennessee's coach, already had a phone to his ear and a recruit on the line Sunday. Kiffin laid out some of his grand plans to Gaither (Tampa, Fla.) tailback Jarvis Giles early Sunday with the hope of luring Giles -- who decommitted after Phillip Fulmer was forced out -- back into the class.
"He said he was watching me on film," Giles said Sunday night. "He was telling me about what he thought I could do in his pro-style offense."
Kiffin also let Giles in on another plan. "He said he was trying to get Big Kiffin to be his defensive coordinator," Giles said. "You know, the one from the Bucs."
Kiffin's father, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, said Sunday that reports that he already has agreed to leave Tampa for Knoxville are "speculation," but if the elder Kiffin -- the architect of the widely copied "Tampa Two" defense -- is indeed headed to Tennessee, it might be the biggest recruiting coup for a young head coach who already is hard at work trying to build his first Volunteers class.
Besides Giles, Lane Kiffin also spoke Sunday to Midwest City, Okla., tailback David Oku. Oku also wavered on his commitment after Fulmer's dismissal, but he told Volquest.com on Sunday that he was thrilled with Kiffin's hiring and planned to stay committed to the Vols.
Meanwhile, Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, Va.) coach Robert Prunty said Kiffin had dispatched an assistant to attend Monday's Winter Workout, a combine for Hargrave's postgraduate players. Hargrave linebacker Marlon Walls signed with Tennessee in February, but he didn't qualify academically. Walls committed to the Vols again in September. Prunty said he got to know Kiffin as a recruiter when Kiffin was an assistant at USC. "He'll do a great job at Tennessee," said Prunty. "He recruited [former Hargrave and current USC receiver] Vidal Hazelton."
Kiffin hasn't been in touch with all of Tennessee's committed players yet. D.T. Shackelford, a Decatur, Ala. linebacker who committed to Tennessee this summer, said he had yet to hear from the new coach. Shackelford, who grew close to John Chavis, Fulmer's defensive coordinator, said he wants to know what Kiffin has planned for the defense. "I want to know who is coaching me," said Shackelford, who also is considering Ole Miss, LSU and Vanderbilt.
If that coach is Monte Kiffin, recruiting defenders will be much easier. Kiffin, now in his 11th year with the Bucs, devised the Cover Two scheme used by much of the NFL, and recruits may jump at the chance to play for a coach who helped turn Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch and Ronde Barber into potential Hall-of-Famers.
We do know the identity of one Tennessee staff member. David Reaves, the quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator at South Carolina, has joined Kiffin in Knoxville. This wasn't much of a surprise, considering Reaves is Kiffin's brother-in-law. The move certainly should help with Tampa's Giles, who also is considering Nebraska and South Carolina. Reaves was recruiting Giles for South Carolina.
One thing you might notice about all the players named so far is that none of them live in Tennessee. While the Volunteer State isn't exactly a talent hotbed, it does produce excellent players on occasion. During his introductory press conference, Kiffin said he and his staff must "build a fence" around the state. Later, he mentioned that Monday he would hop a plane "to Memphis to see the No. 1 recruit."
Just a guess, but the recruit Kiffin mentioned probably is receiver Marlon Brown.
Chicken And Egg With Irish Recruiting
Notre Dame fans flooded my inbox after I wrote last week that high academic standards will keep the Fighting Irish from recruiting the kind of classes necessary to compete for national titles and BCS bowl berths on an annual basis. Some e-mails were well-thought-out, persuasive arguments that most of the blame lies with the chicken (Irish coach Charlie Weis) and not the egg (recruiting). Those, I assume, came from actual Notre Dame grads, and while I respectfully disagree, I certainly understand their arguments.
Most of the e-mails, however, began something like this: "You are an idiot. Haven't you seen the recruiting rankings?"
Maybe I was a little too subtle last week. The recruiting rankings are wrong. Recruiting rankings, as they relate to Notre Dame, are artificially inflated for a couple of reasons.
First, Notre Dame's past reputation leads some evaluators to assume that if Notre Dame is recruiting a player, that player must be excellent. This has begun to change and will change more as Rivals.com and Scout.com bring in more evaluators with better trained eyes, but, at the moment, the reputation of the school recruiting the player plays a role in that player's ranking.
Second, Web sites use recruiting rankings to drive traffic. They engender debate, inspiring fans to take to the message boards to argue the merits of each player or class. That means more clicks, which means more money. Notre Dame, with its massive fan base and even more massive collection of anti-Domers, always creates interest. So the more prominent Notre Dame is, the more traffic the sites draw.
But maybe I was wrong. Maybe Notre Dame fans don't want to compete for national titles every year. Maybe they're satisfied with recruiting national titles, which, when your team gains only nine yards in the first half, don't mean very much.
In a rare interview last month, Lufkin, Texas, defensive tackle JaMarkus McFarland told Rivals.com that he would decide between Oklahoma and Texas. Judging by McFarland's travel schedule last weekend, one more program may have worked itself into that mix.
McFarland visited USC for the Notre Dame game, meaning three top-five schools are competing for the services of the nation's top-ranked defensive lineman. Lufkin coach John Outlaw raved in an interview before the season about McFarland's dedication on and off the field. McFarland is an excellent student, and, as Thayer Evans of The New York Times wrote, he is a master of the Blue-Light Special.