Lane Kiffin Abandons Tennessee for USC, So What's Next for the Vols?

Kimberley NashSenior Writer IJanuary 12, 2010

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 12: Lane Kiffin, head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers during pregame warmups against the UCLA Bruins on September 12, 2009 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. UCLA beat Tennessee 19-15. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Lane Kiffin has left the building—the Tennessee Volunteers' building that is. The first-year Vol coach has decided to accept the position left vacant by Pete Carroll and take over the USC Trojans. 

This news must come as a huge surprise to the Rocky Top Nation, as Kiffin was sporting a stellar recruiting class and had been the architect of the Tennessee Volunteers' return to SEC prominence after just one year at the helm. 

It was only yesterday that one bleacher creature spoke of the possibility that he could leave the Vols to resume his affiliation with the Trojans—the team where he figured prominently for more than five seasons before leaving for a head coaching job with the Raiders.

So, what does this do to the Volunteers? How will the fanbase that Kiffin spent the past year courting and building the confidence of react to this news? Honestly, the reaction could be mixed.

Kiffin was nothing in the SEC this season if not divisive. Even among the Orange faithful, he had had a tendency to ruffle feathers with his braggadocian nature. 

However, those things were easy to overlook so long as his team was laying waste to the gods of the SEC and making positive waves of change. They ended their season with an appearance in the Chick-fil-A bowl and a ton of 2010 momentum.

Now, one has to wonder what will happen in Knoxville.

What of his recruits and the great staff he built at Tennessee?

It's reported that both Monte Kiffin and Ed Orgeron will go with him to Cali—essentially destroying an entire coaching staff with one fell swoop. The worst part is the timing of it all; who can Tennessee target at such a late date?

Lane Kiffin's name has got to sound a bit like a cuss word in Knoxville right now, and I don't blame any of his former fanbase for wanting to take him to the woodshed right now. This was a low blow by a guy who the Vols took a chance on last season—hiring him over Brian Kelly.

It's gonna be a crazy 24 hours for the Vol Nation, but this has to be a crushing blow to a program that was on the move in the SEC yet again.

For now, Tennessee wide receivers coach Kippy Brown will take over as interim head coach for the Vols.

As far as candidates go, ESPN's Mark Schlabach is speculating that the Vols might want to give a look at Will Muschamp of Texas, Randy Edsall of UConn, and Gary Patterson of TCU—he was a guy that was on the short list last season.

Schlabach goes on to say that whomever the Vols target, Tennessee AD Mike Hamilton will have to act "very, very quickly."