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LANE AND LAYLA haven't bought a house in Knoxville. She stayed behind in Oakland to be close to her doctor when the baby came. Lane has had only one break since he got the job, and that was to return to California for his son's birth. "I was in labor and Lane was in the room with me, but he was on the phone the whole time," says Layla. "I'm having the baby and he's recruiting."
If anybody doubted that Lane planned for his tenure in Knoxville to rival that of Fulmer, who won a national championship and was 152--52 in 16-plus seasons, one only had to consider the name he and Layla gave their son: Monte Knox Kiffin.
Lane flew back to Tennessee less than 48 hours after his son was born. He'd arranged to have someone fetch him at the airport, but the driver was 25 minutes late. "I came back and within five minutes I'd fired the guy who was in charge of the guy who'd been sent to pick me up," says Kiffin. "Here's the point: We need to win. That's 25 minutes that Nick Saban and Urban Meyer had that I lost because somebody was late picking me up at the airport."
Kiffin has shown no more sympathy for the rest of the support staff he inherited from Fulmer. "You can't count the number of people we've run off because they couldn't keep up, and I'm including secretaries," he says. "They had to go because they weren't going to make it, and they knew it."
Layla and the kids won't move to Knoxville until sometime in the next few months, so Lane has been sharing a house near campus with several of his assistants, among them his brother-in-law, quarterbacks coach David Reaves, and tight ends and tackles coach James Cregg, another assistant he boasts of having stolen, from the Raiders.
Kiffin tolerates this living situation because, as he puts it, he "can coach the coaches not only on a daily basis but on a nightly basis." During recruiting season he listened to their calls and critiqued them when they were done. "I don't have to be their buddy," Kiffin says of his housemates. "I don't have time to watch some TV show with them. We have way too much to do. We're too far behind. I'm not worrying about three or four years from now. I want to win now. Wednesdays and Sundays are the same day of the week as far as I'm concerned. We're at work at 5:30 in the morning, and we don't finish until 10:30 at night. Any other way and we'd be average, and we're not here to be average."
Kiffin snaps photos with his cellphone and sends them to Layla, and he calls every day to speak to his daughters, four-year-old Landry and two-year-old Presley. He was out recruiting on Dec. 13 when Landry celebrated her birthday. "We were in a car on the way to a school," says Clint Dowdle, a former Tennessee assistant director of football operations who accompanied Kiffin on the recruiting trail. "Lane got on the phone and sang to his daughter. He made the comment later that it was the first time he hadn't seen her on her birthday."
In one week during the height of recruiting season Kiffin made 17 trips in a private jet to meet with high school recruits. After each visit the first person he called was Monte. "They talked eight times a day while he was on the road," says Dowdle. "As soon as he got on the plane, he was calling his dad."
When classes resumed in January, Kiffin gave his players three days to adjust to their new schedules before he launched an off-season training program led by Mark Smith, the strength coach he hired away from Steve Spurrier at South Carolina. Three days a week the players meet in the athletic center and run sprints in the early-morning hours before classes begin. Players lift weights on days when they don't have to run. "It's different from before," says junior tailback Montario Hardesty. "Last year we didn't start running until February. And there's more discipline now. We can't wear earrings or jewelry or headbands. One thing I've noticed is how hard the guys are pushing, trying to make a positive first impression. It's tougher than it was, but no one's complaining."
Kiffin's efforts at discipline aren't confined to workouts. One of his rules requires that players sit in the first or second row at every class. If a player sits in even the third row, he's marked as absent and faces time on the StairMaster as punishment. "I was in my 8 a.m. math class the second day we came back," says All-America safety Eric Berry. "I'm the only player in there. Afterward my classmates start coming up to me. 'Dude, did you see Kiffin?' He'd come to the rear door and poked his head in to make sure I was there. Before, the coaches would send the weight-room guys or graduate assistants to check. But this was the head coach.