College Football Connection: How Can Kiffin Handle Adversity?
Remember when you were growing up, and there was always the group of people you knew in school that were just begging for your attention?
Tennessee Volunteers rookie head coach Lane Kiffin is always the first name that comes to mind when given that stereotype. Since becoming Tennessee's 21st head coach, Lane Kiffin has been in and out of college football's biggest headlines - and not always positively.
Despite claims from Kiffin himself that his tactics were to "motivate, not offend", it seems to fans across the Southeast that his means of business are irritating, to be blunt. After arriving on the scene as Tennessee's coach, Kiffin wasted no time putting his name, and his mouth, on the map.
"I'm really looking forward to embracing some of the great traditions at the University of Tennessee, for instance the Vol Walk, running through the T, singing Rocky Top all night long after we beat Florida next year. It will be a blast."
Words that inspired few, and had others wondering if what was said was actually true. Did a newly hired head coach - a coach that had no collegiate head coaching experience - and a coach that had struggled at the professional level, really just take a shot at a program which had won a National Championship in two of the past three seasons?
Courage is one noticeable trait of Lane Kiffin, intelligence isn't as apparent.
Especially considering the fact that Urban Meyer has been called a master motivator at times. Meyer has went through leaps and bounds just to encourage his football team to be triumphant. Some extraordinary occasions include making a collage of newspaper clips during 2006, containing writings, all negative, about his football team. End result? A 41-14 shellacking, in a contest well over at halftime.
Even last season, Meyer had his Gators determined in an SEC contest against rival Georgia. The previous season, Georgia added some flair to the hatred between the two teams when they sent their entire team out onto the field to celebrate after scoring a touchdown. The Bulldogs came out on top in 2007, but the end result was a little different the following season. A 49-10 Florida victory took place, with Urban Meyer calling timeouts at the end of a game in order to savor it.
It's stories like that which bring college football followers, including myself, around the country to wonder what's up Lane Kiffin's sleeve next.
The stories don't begin or end here or there, they just keep writing themselves day by day. Lest we forget Lane Kiffin's comments directed towards a South Carolina recruit that he lost to the Gamecocks, or Kiffin's quote about a high school from Pahokee. By and by, Lane Kiffin is hard to label as shy, and easy to dub an airhead.
With a list this high, and we didn't have to stop here, Lane Kiffin seems to be the wrong guy for Tennessee football, right?
Wrong. In my opinion, Lane Kiffin was a smart coaching hire. He's young, brave and not to mention he isn't shy of a camera.. or microphone. Listening to every brash remark uttered from Kiffin reminds me more and more of Steve Spurrier in his day and age at the University of Florida.
Spurrier established one simple thing while at Florida. He was going to beat you, and you knew he was going to beat you. It wasn't the fact that they were better than you, because they knew they were. It was the fact that you knew you were going to lose that made the Florida teams of the 1990's so intimidating. And intimidation, especially in football, produces effectiveness.
While with Florida, Spurrier established a sense of swagger and cockiness that made fans all across the Southeast upset with him. Sound familiar? Spurrier also wasn't afraid of the cameras, or of taking shots at his rivals. After all, he is remembered by Gator fans for coining Florida State University's acronym of "Free Shoes University".
It's all about the attitude, whether it be positive or negative. As long as Lane Kiffin can bring a positive energy to the table at Knoxville, he's going to have a lot of success and victory at the program. However, he has adversity stacked well up against his shoulders, and it's up to him to carry that weight.
Losing to the UCLA Bruins, especially a week before the Florida game, wasn't a great way to begin as Tennessee coach. It doesn't help that the offense was seemingly non-existent, which was a lingering hangover of the 2008 Tennessee Volunteers. Not to mention the fact that Jonathan Crompton, who looked much improved a week earlier, threw 4 interceptions.
It's facts like those above that make Lane Kiffin look foolish, especially at this point of the season. Especially considering the point that Lane Kiffin must bring his Volunteers into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to face a defending National Champion, and a title defender which probably won't show him much respect.
Following a loss at home to UCLA up with a meeting with the Florida Gators just spells a rough start to Lane Kiffin's coaching career at the University of Tennessee. We know he can recruit, we know he brings forth an energy to the program, and we know he can hire respectable coaches. But, and this is a very big but, can he put all his chips on the table, produce, and handle adversity?
Oh, it's just one of the many questions hanging high on the peak of Rocky Top.
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