We've seen every trick out of Lane Kiffin's recruiting sleeve.
First, there were the Urban Meyer comments that had him all over ESPN and USA Today for weeks. We've seen shirtless men screaming "UT! Wild Boys!" to scared 17 year olds. We've heard of Kiffin's relentless right hand man, Ed Orgeron, yell into his boss's ear that there is absolutely no way he'll let certain players go to other SEC schools.
We've been informed of Kiffin and Orgeron flying down in a helicopter to an Atlanta high school game to impress recruits. Most recently, we've heard world renown rapper Lil Wayne's line "Smoke weed, talk (crap) like Lane Kiffin" followed by Wayne's video blog explanation where he tells viewers that when a recruit's mother calls him into a room, he's probably listening to Lil Wayne sing that line; at which point Kiffin can say "Hi son, I'm Lane Kiffin, I'm who he was talking about."
All of these above tactics will get recruits, no doubt. Those who think that a 16 or 17-year-old kid isn't impressed by Kiffin's swagger, Hollywood-like entrance to a high school game, or Lil Wayne's shout out are simply delusional. But the highest recruiting dividends will not be paid by the aforementioned actions. Kiffin's biggest impact will be a result of the trust and faith he has shown in his quarterback Jonathan Crompton.
Most fans, myself included, were ready to chase Crompton out of Knoxville after his disgusting performance against UCLA. We had seen enough. We were sick and tired of more than a year of interceptions, fumbles, bounce passes, and post route throws that hit the first row of fans. At a time when a majority of the fan base wanted a quarterback change, Kiffin stayed true to his field general.
Back in the summer, Kiffin explained to the fans and media, "If our quarterbacks mess up, it's my fault, I'm the one not putting them in the right situations and not coaching them well enough." Sure enough, when Crompton self-imploded against UCLA and Auburn, Kiffin didn't sway. He remained true to his word and stuck with Crompton.
That trust paid off. Crompton threw four touchdowns against Georgia the week after Auburn. If Daniel Lincoln's field goal wasn't blocked by Terrence Cody (aka Optimus Prime) then Crompton would have been the hero that led his Tennessee team in defeating No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
When fans were fearful of a mental letdown after the Alabama game, Crompton delivered with two touchdowns against South Carolina. In last week's game against Memphis, most expected a run oriented game, but Kiffin decided it was his quarterback's night, and sure enough Crompton was nothing short of spectacular. He ended his night with five touchdowns to five different receivers, and even ran in a touchdown himself.
His performance during the first half that night was the single greatest half-time performance by a Tennessee quarterback. His 305 yards surpassed the legendary Peyton Manning's first half record of 295 yards. Crompton now leads the SEC with 22 total touchdowns for the year, and is tied for fourth nationally on the touchdown list.
How does this affect recruiting, you may ask. It's quite simple. When a prospect's mother and father are sitting in their living room with Lane Kiffin, they will see a coach who has his players' backs through tough times. They will see a man who stayed true to his word and did not flake when most around him were ready to do so.
For now, Tennessee has a committed quarterback for 2010. The tall and lanky Tyler Bray gave Tennessee his commitment after the season opener against Western Kentucky. However, there are top quarterbacks committed to other teams who are taking notice. If they see what we see in Lane Kiffin, don't be surprised if they decide to switch and come to Tennessee. Sometimes it isn't about offensive schemes and NFL potential, it's just about trust and faith in a head coach.