Vols introduce Kiffin as head football coach

Vols introduce Kiffin as head football coach

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Lane Kiffin says his first focus is on recruiting. Lane Kiffin says his first focus is on recruiting.

By MARK NAGI
6 Sports Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- Tennessee on Monday introduced new head football coach Lane Kiffin, the former head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

Kiffin, 33, was named Tennessee's 21st head coach during a press conference on Monday afternoon at Neyland Stadium. He was selected in UT's first national search for a head football coach.

MORE ABOUT LANE KIFFIN

UT Athletic Director Mike Hamilton said Kiffin has made a significant impression on him in a short time.

Kiffin said he asked Hamilton to interview the best coaches available, then come back and offer him the job if he thought he was the best choice and that's what happened.

"As I looked at the opportunities available, there was nothing close to this. So I didn't have a direct plan that I was going to college no matter what. I knew that was going to happen first because of how the seasons were. But, I know my agents won't like me saying this, but I am not going back to the NFL. Not because of what I think of the NFL, but because of what I think of Tennessee," Kiffin said.

He said several coaches are being replaced including longtime defensive coordinator John Chavis and that those were very difficult decisions. He met with them Sunday night.

He also met with the players Sunday night and had this to say about the meeting at Monday's press conference.

"I told them, I don't care what you have done before. I don't care how many stars you have in recruiting, how many yards you have, how many tackles you have. It doesn't mean anything now. I don't even care if you are on scholarship now. We are going to have a competitive program and it is done on the practice field and they are going to earn their way. They are going to earn their starting spots. Not one of those guys is a starter right now."

Four current members of the coaching staff have been retained, Kiffin said, but he didn't name any names. He said he's evaluating these four and they'll go on recruiting trips during this process.

Kiffin didn't name any members of his new staff Monday. He said that was because of contracts they might still be under at other locations.

Kiffin said he's concentrating on recruiting first and the spring is very important for returning players because new recruits will be given a chance right away to determine whether they can be starters.

In response to questions from the press, Kiffin said he plans to call the plays himself unless he puts someone else on his staff he's "comfortable with."

Kiffin asked Vols fans to be patient while he takes the helm and begins his approach to the program. He said he won't make any predictions about how many wins, titles or championships to expect.

However, he did throw in this prediction. "I'm really looking forward to embracing some of the great traditions at the University of Tennessee. The Vol Walk, running through the T, singing Rocky Top all night long next year after we beat Florida. It's going to be a blast, so get ready."

Vols linebacker Gerald Williams had this reaction to the new coach. "All the guys were saying that it is going to feel strange not having Coach Fulmer around, but once we met Lane Kiffin, we didn't forget but, he let us know we were going to be all right and let us know we are going to  work hard to get us back to where we need to be."

And tight end Luke Stocker added, "I was kind of nervous sitting in the front row just waiting for coach to walk in. I didn't know what to expect. He came in. He stood there. He made us get up, walk out of the room and sit where we hadn't sat before. He said it didn't matter what you have done before, it all starts over again today."

Kiffin replaces Phillip Fulmer, who was the Vols coach since the end of the 1992 season. Fulmer won a national championship in 1998, but had two losing seasons in the last five years, including a 5-7 mark this year.

Ironically, Fulmer was the scheduled speaker Monday at the Knoxville Quarterback Club's final lunch meeting.

"I'm not even in a place to comment on that. I certainly wish everyone well, especially those players that are out there. He's got a good looking group to work with and I wish everybody well," Fulmer said.

Kiffin was the youngest coach in the NFL's modern history when hired to lead the Raiders in January 2007 at age 31. He had a rocky relationship with Oakland owner Al Davis, who fired him Sept. 30 for what he said was insubordination. Kiffin had a 5-15 record with the Raiders.

He and his wife, Layla, have two daughters. They're expecting their third child in about a month.

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