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Tennessee Football: Could Mike Leach Replace Lane Kiffin?

HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 26:Head coach Mike Leach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders gives instructions to his defense against the Houston Cougars  at Robertson Stadium on September 26, 2009 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images
Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IJanuary 12, 2010

The pirate is on deck.

The Tennessee Volunteers clearly have something to prove after Tuesday night.  The latest news is that Lane Kiffin will be departing after just one season, leaving behind him a trail of NCAA violations, broken promises and unbridled emotions of shock, anger and yes perhaps even some relief.

However, college football is a fickle world.  The program cannot just sit and feel sorry for themselves as Kiffin returns home to USC.  With recruits on the line and a team's future at stake, Tennessee needs to find a new coach and quickly.

After all, this is the SEC.  Mediocrity often results in being pummeled by your conference foes like Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.  Yet, this late in the game, big name coaches are typically not going to be just hanging around for you to pick up.

Sure, you could go after TCU's Gary Patterson or Boise State's Chris Petersen.  Both of them have found major success but both have never coached in a BCS conference and both live in almost God-like status at their respective campuses.

You could also court the big NFL coaches that are sitting on the sidelines like Jon Gruden, but prepare to have your heart broken.

Fortunately for the Volunteers, there is one name out there who is equally driven to prove something to the college football community.

Mike Leach, the former Texas Tech coach who had a very public expulsion from Lubbock is a man on a mission.

Let's face it, Leach is a character and one that would fit perfectly into the stellar cast of the SEC.  Leach is not going to be intimidated by the rings on Urban Meyer or Nick Saban's hand.  He has already competed and recruited against the likes of Texas and Oklahoma.  He has found success in a power conference and his offense has given defensive coordinators fits for years.

In many ways, Leach is the new incarnation of another SEC coach, Steve Spurrier.  Imagine the press conference when those two play each other.  It'd be a field day for the media.

Obviously the SEC has some superior defenses, watching a Mike Leach offense take them on year after year is a dream come true for college football fans.  It would also help bolster the sagging spirits of Volunteer fans.  If Leach could bring in talent for a school like Texas Tech, imagine what he could do with a program that has the prestige and power of Tennessee.

It's a dangerous combination and one of the few ways they can avoid making this transition not set the program back for 3-4 years.

Of course, the major issue that will come up is the incident that resulted in Leach's early termination in the first place.  After all, Kiffin was pretty infamous for bringing more negative headlines to the program than victories.  Would hiring Leach continue that trend?

Perhaps, but it might be worth the risk.

Let's face it, if you can coach, you always get a second chance.  Mike Leach is simply too talented not to be given another opportunity.  Did we think he would get one so soon?  Will he even want to take it after what happened at Texas Tech?  Only time will tell.

Still, Leach has plenty to offer the program and Tennessee could certainly do far worse in their selection process.  This next hire for the Volunteers will be a definitive statement.  This cannot be a short term band aid, but the beginning of a new era.  Otherwise they risk falling into obscurity behind the SEC juggernauts.  Leach has certainly been loyal to his school, even when they have mistreated him well before the shed incident.

You will not find Leach dropping his job for greener pastures.  He was courted by other major programs, but he stayed true to the Red Raiders.  It's that loyalty which helped create the family atmosphere in Tennessee.  Granted, Leach may be an outsider but he is someone that the folks in Knoxville could instantly embrace and call one of their own.

Not to mention the simple fact that he knows how to win.

It has been a wild and wacky offseason in college football.  I cannot say for certain if Mike Leach could help restore the Tennessee program, but I do know one thing: It would sure be fun watching him try.  He clearly has a chip on his shoulders, wanting another opportunity to do what he does best.  Tennessee better be listening.

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