The Argument for Tennessee's Lane Kiffin As SEC Coach of the Year

Kevin ScottCorrespondent INovember 8, 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

When all the delusional Bama and Florida fans pick themselves up off the floor, we can begin.

OK.  Coming into his first college head coaching job, Lane Kiffin was left with a roster of what had played like inferior talent and what seemed to be babied egos.  Tennessee went 5-7 in 2008, firing the longest tenured coach in the SEC, Phillip Fulmer.

With embarrassing blowouts by Florida, Alabama, and South Carolina being topped off by a loss to Wyoming, outside of a highly touted recruiting class there wasn't too much a UT fan could certainly be excited about.

Holding back expectations more than anything was the uncertainty at the quarterback position.  Jonathan Crompton played as bad as any QB has ever played at UT in 2008 and Nick Stephens couldn't do the job well enough to stay in over Crompton.

After a heartbreaking loss to UCLA in which Crompton played terribly and much like the Crompton fans had come to know, the Vols lost a close one at Florida and then another heartbreaker at home to Auburn.

Facing two losses against average at best teams and the outlook that didn't seem very bright, Kiffin and his team found something.  What is something?  The light.  Jon Crompton's light, to be more exact.

In his first three games, Crompton had 5 TDs and 7 interceptions, with all 5 TDs coming against a dreadful Western Kentucky team.  In the last six games, the fifth year senior QB has 16 TDs and 3 interceptions.  What?

It's not just the stats people, Jonathan Crompton has made some big boy throws.  He hit Luke Stocker on a seam route to set up UT's failed FG attempt in the closing seconds, but that throw was one guys on Sunday make.

Perhaps more important however, is that Crompton is making the throws the should make.  For a long time, Crompton has struggled with simple throws, inexplicably being high and low and everything in between.  

It's not just Crompton, though his improvement is plenty enough to make a case.  Nearly every aspect of the Vols' offense has improved under Lane Kiffin.  

Finally healthy, Denarious Moore and Gerald Jones are proving to be more than adequate receivers for Tennessee.  They still lack the true number one guy to be a dynamic down-field threat, but the backs, tight ends and receivers are all complementing each other well enough to create a productive passing game.

Another impressive position has been the offensive line.  Kiffin has had to patch an offensive line together due to injuries and dismissals, and has almost no depth to speak of.

Currently, the Vols are starting two walk-ons and a freshman who has been playing tackle less than a calendar year.  This unit has been troubled with some procedure issues, but has performed admirably considering it's makeup.

When pondering who to name "Coach of the Year," I would think the decision makers have one thought: "Who has done the best coaching job?" and not "Who has the most wins?"

Sure, Urban Meyer and Nick Saban are locked into the SEC Championship game.  Sure, Les Miles will likely win nine or 10 games at LSU.  But isn't that what they were supposed to do?

All three coaches have a few years in their position and their own players to win and lose with.  Before the season, they were all three in the top 10 and all three had realistic plans of playing for a conference and national title.

But when it comes to performing, Florida and Bama both squeaked by Tennessee and have both suspiciously been the beneficiary of terrible SEC officiating.  One has to wonder if the SEC didn't have the plan of getting them to the Dome undefeated, if they could actually do it on their own.

As far as Miles goes, his LSU team has squeaked by Mississippi State and lost to Florida worse than the Vols in Baton Rouge.

All three teams have showed little improvement as the season has gone along.  Granted, they were all on a higher level than UT to start with, but I could argue all day that they've stayed stagnant, and regressed in some cases.

Tennessee, on the other hand, is a vastly different team.  Kiffin has the Vols playing like a team who believes it's as good as anyone out there.  After thrashing Georgia and South Carolina and giving Bama and Florida fits, people need to look at Kiffin for SEC Coach of the Year seriously.

The Vols are arguably playing as well as any team in the conference right now.  Give me Tennessee vs anyone on a neutral field in say, Atlanta, and it's anything but a given.  

Kiffin has a huge test coming up this week in Oxford, and a win at Ole Miss would all but solidify this award in my opinion.  To go from a team that struggled vs UCLA and Auburn, to being arguably the third best team in the league would be nothing short of amazing.

For opposing fans, this all my be a little hard to understand.  For Tennessee fans who have had to sit through Jonathan Crompton, it's all to easy of a decision.

There are many factors, some I haven't even touched, that should land Kiffin the award.  You could argue against some of them since some are a matter of perception or opinion, and that's fine.

The one thing I go back to is Crompton.  It is nothing short of amazing to watch the turnaround Lane Kiffin has led this kid to.  Even at the beginning of this season, people were still touting Crompton as the worst QB in at least 30 years at UT.

Many media publications labeled him as the worst QB in the SEC and some hinted towards one of the worst in the nation.  At 16 TDs and 3 interceptions in his last 6 games, is there a hotter QB out there?

Aside from the credit Crompton deserves for working hard, all the credit goes to Kiffin.  This kid was in shambles, a shell of a quarterback.  He's been transformed to way more than average, but a guy who can make some big time throws in some crucial situations.

Lane Kiffin deserves the SEC Coach of the Year in 2009.  He won't get it, politics won't allow that.  But get ready SEC, before long, you won't have a choice.  It's Lane Kiffin's world, all the rest of you can do is watch him take over the conference.


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