The States of College Football: Tennessee
Posted By:Brett Haynes - Greenville, SC Tags:
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There is no hiding the big story in this article: Lane Kiffin has arrived in the SEC and he is already stirring the pot. Yes, the Tennessee Volunteers went out and hired a coach with zero college head coaching experience, and this man has already called out several of his conference brethren with below the belt comments. It will be a rocky ride on Rocky Top this fall, you can bet your pants on that!
The tour through the states of the college football union lands us next in the Volunteer State, home to UT, Vanderbilt and Memphis. We will now take a quick look at what these three programs have going on heading into 2009...
Tennessee Volunteers (SEC East) - 2008 record: 5-7 (3-5) Head Coach: Lane Kiffin, 33, (0-0)
The Volunteers had been under the guidance of Coach Philip Fulmer since 1992 and the results were not bad. He gave UT a record of 152-52 over that time along with a national title (1998) , two SEC Championships ('97, '98) and a 8-7 record in bowl games. But after a couple of rough seasons in Knoxville, Fulmer decided the pressure was for the birds, and he turned in his resignation.
Enter Lane Kiffin. The young hot-shot coach from the west coast - who is known just as much for his smokin' hot wife as his ability to run a football program - now enters the SEC living room and isn't exactly standing in the corner waiting for others to come by to say hello. Kiffin has already called South Carolina players "future gas-pumpers" and called Florida's staff "cheaters". Those are some pretty big words from a man that hasn't coached a game yet as a college head coach.
Before this stop at UT, Kiffin was the offensive-coordinator under Pete Carroll at Southern California, where the two won the 2004 national championship. He then went on to coach for the Oakland Raiders, but everyone knows what a coaching graveyard working for Al Davis can be. So basically, in my book, you throw the Raiders thing out the window and say that UT hired one of the top offensive-coordinators in the country. Fair enough.
So what does Kiffin have to work with as he goes into battle throughout the South this fall?
At quarterback, he has Jonathon Crompton, a 6'4" senior who has decent experience. In 2008, Crompton threw for 889 yards and four touchdowns. This spring he has taken nearly all of the snaps with the first team and they are looking for a big year from him. Behind Crompton, he has running back Montario Hardesty, another senior with limited career action. The o-line is made up of five seniors who all have at least 2 varsity letters. They average around 310 pounds and 6'4" (they are huge) and will be the key to this crazy season to come in Knoxville. Ramon Foster is a gargantuan 6'6' and 325 lbs.
On defense, UT will feature a junior or better at every single position. The talent in Knoxville is ridiculous, so this defense could be a nasty one in 2009. They will be anchored by a front line of veterans that average 6'3" and a lean but quick 270 lbs.
I think this is going to be one of the crazier seasons in Tennessee history. I see UT coming out and winning a few games early, setting up Kiffin to be the stroy of the year. But then SEC play will set in and Kiffin will lose badly to a few teams, humbling both him and the Vol program. Five of Kiffin's first six games are in Knoxville (eight home games total!), but sandwiched in the middle of those is a trip to the Swamp. Another road trip includes Alabama. By year's end, expect UT to finish third in the East, and make a Florida bowl game.
Vanderbilt Commodores (SEC East) - 2008 record: 6-6 (4-4) Head Coach: Bobby Johnson 27-56 (12-44)
By now, unless you live on the Moon, you know that Vandy had a breakthrough season a year ago. The Commodores won a bowl for the first time in x years, and also beat several key SEC opponents including Auburn and South Carolina.
The SEC East is one of the tougher conferences in America year in and year out. It was key that Vandy took advantage of a down Tennessee program to finish 3rd in the division in 2008. This year it will be tough once again as Florida and Georgia will be top-10 teams, Tennessee is going to be hard to predict, and USC and Kentucky have solid, deep teams. Expect Vandy to be solid again, but with teams looking for them now, a let-down is certain. They will go 5-7.
Memphis Tigers (Conf USA) - 2008 record 6-7 Head Coach: Tommy West 52 - 51
It has been the same ole story in Memphis for quite some time now as the Tommy West led Tigers have been pretty mediocre for 100 years running. Sure, they win more than they lose, but lets face it, when was the last time you remember Memphis doing anything special in football?
2009 probably will not be much different. The fact that they still have West as Head Coach means that they probably will have very similar results. Hey, I like Coach West, he is a Clemson man, but he is just an average football coach at best signified by his 52-51 record in eight seasons in Memphis.
So there you have it, a quick look at the teams from the Volunteer State. Stay tuned as the Kentucky and Virginia schools are up next....
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