Tennessee Vols Football: A Runaway (Lane) Train

Joel BarkerSenior Writer INovember 1, 2009

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 31:  Head coach Lane Kiffen of the Tennessee Volunteers watches against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Neyland Stadium on October 31, 2009 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

During the longest offseason in the history of mankind, I wrote numerous articles explaining how and why Lane Kiffin could be the man to restore the glory at Tennessee. Of course, I didn't know it for a fact, but I speculated as many on this site do.

By the time September rolled around, I was sure he was the man.

After Tennessee lost by only 10 points to No. 1 Florida, the team that was supposed to put up 60 on the Vols, I knew for a fact that Kiffin was the man.

I wrote, "Enjoy it now, Vol-haters! It wont be easy in the next few years," on the various social networking sites that I use. I even wrote articles containing that very phrase on this Web site.

That was before Tennessee crushed Georgia, 45-19. It was before Tennessee came within a monstrous, meaty paw of upsetting then-No. 1 Alabama. It was before Steve Spurrier's most successful Gamecock team to date came into Knoxville and left 31-13 losers.

Coach Lane Kiffin took over a team with nowhere close to the talent we've come to know and love at the University of Tennessee. He had a quarterback that was probably the most maligned to ever take a snap for the Vols. He had a patchwork offensive line that included two walk-ons. He had a running back who had spent the majority of his career on the trainer's table.

After sticking with quarterback Jonathan Crompton, despite many wishing for Nick Stephens, Kiffin has been rewarded in three straight games. Crompton wasn't as great against the Gamecocks as he was against Georgia and Alabama, but he didn't have to be, since the defense forced three fumbles in the first quarter.

That patchwork offensive line cost the Vols on the final play of the Alabama game, but had it not been beating and banging against the massive front seven of 'Bama's defense, the game would have been over long before getting that chance.

That oft-injured running back, Montario Hardesty, is a Top-Five SEC running back statistically. His spin move for a touchdown against the South Carolina defense in the first quarter was possibly his greatest play yet.

Each and every one of these areas was extremely problematic last year. These positions were the foundation for the terrible lack of success on that '08 offense.

Lane Kiffin has coached these guys up like no other could or would. Heck, Phil Fulmer, Tennessee's greatest coach-not-named-Neyland, couldn't even do it.

The freshmen Kiffin recruited in his first two months on the job have played a role, but the fact that Kiffin has these upperclassmen playing beyond their capabilities is remarkable to say the least.

Just wait until Kiffin finishes putting his next Top-Five recruiting class together. Just wait until the program is full of his players.

I would encourage my fellow Tennessee fans on this site to ignore the rambling, incoherent blabber that is coming from writers of opposing teams about Coach Kiffin.

I felt in the past that I had to defend Kiffin's honor on this site. That I had to be the one to prove all the haters wrong.

But guess what? Kiffin is taking care of that himself. We don't have to defend anyone at this point.

Let the haters keep writing. Let their fans and fellow haters comment. Pretty soon there is going to be absolutely nothing that they can do about Lane Kiffin and his success, but sit back and shake their heads in anguish.

If Kiffin can have this much success in developing sub-par, leftover talent, the sky is the limit in the future.

Before the future can begin, though, Tennessee needs to finish this season. With four very winnable games remaining on the schedule, the Vols and Kiffin can do a lot to secure even more hope for that near-future.

Tennessee fans: You better get on the train now! After these next four wins, no one will be able to stop it.

Runaway trains are impossible to board once they get rolling.