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A Return To The SEC For Kiffin? Yes, Please

lane-kiffin-smirkingHere at MrSEC.com, we like the permanent cross-division rivalries the league currently schedules in football.  Many have suggested it’s time to drop those traditional affairs because, mainly, Tennessee has fallen on hard times and their cross-divisional foe, Alabama, has benefited.  No one seems to care that Tennessee was the team enjoying a winning streak in that series just a decade or so ago.  All the matters is the present.

The lack of fire in the Tide/Vols rivalry has empowered the brass at LSU who want to ix-nay the permanent cross-division games because they’re scared of playing Florida every year (even through Florida has been up and down more times than a yo-yo since Steve Spurrier left).

Well, if folks want fire back in the UA/UT grudge match, they just might get it.  With offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier leaving for the same job at Michigan — an interesting move — it’s being reported that Lane Kiffin will interview for the job.  The same Lane Kiffin that Nick Saban invited in for a gridiron powwow just last month.  The same Lane Kiffin who took the Tennessee head coaching job in November 2008 and left it for Southern Cal in January of 2010.  The same Lane Kiffin whose departure from Rocky Top led students to burn a mattress and Knoxville politicians to try and rename a sewage treatment plant in his honor (really).  And if you believe his family, the same Lane Kiffin whose wife and kids received threatening phone calls from irate Volunteer fans after he announced he was leaving.

Lane Kiffin and Alabama versus Tennessee in the fall?  Yes, please.  According to CBSSports.com’s Jeremy Fowler, Kiffin could be interviewing as early as today for the Crimson Tide gig.

That doesn’t mean Kiffin will land the job, of course.  There are other candidates, including former Bama quarterback and current NFL assistant Freddie Kitchens.  Alabama receivers coach Billy Napier and former coach-turned-radio-host Rick Neuheisel are also possibilities.

But a Kiffin hire would get our stamp of approval.  Next October would see him return to Knoxville and Neyland Stadium.  Talk about rekindling a rivalry.

Sorry, LSU fans, CBS/ESPN want you to keep on playing Florida.  And most everyone else in the SEC would love to see Kiffin versus Tennessee on annual basis.

What an ironic twist that would be — Kiffin might be the man to help save one of the Tennessee’s oldest traditions, its rivalry with Alabama.

 

(SIDENOTE — Yes, this is partly tongue in cheek.  Sadly, if we didn’t include this disclaimer, we’d be hit with, “You don’t really think the whole league should make its schedule because of one assistant coach do you?!?!!?!?!!” type rage.)

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Offensive Coordinator Chatter Continues At Florida

silhouette-question-markOn Sunday, Florida coach Will Muschamp pulled the plug on offensive coordinator Brent Pease after two years.  (Somewhere, Jared Lorenzen is chuckling an “I told you so.”)  Injuries or no, Pease’s offenses in Gainesville finished 10th (2012) and 14th (2013) in SEC scoring.  With Muschamp spared for a year, someone had to go and Pease — along with O-line coach Tim Davis — was a sacrificial lamb.

Rumors suggest Muschamp won’t rush this all-important hire.  If he makes a mistake or hires a guy with a system that will take a couple of years to fully implement, Muschamp could join Pease in the ex-Gator coaches club.  No wonder he intends to take all of December, if necessary, to chat up the best candidates in the country… many of whom will be coaching their teams in bowl games this month.

So who’s on Florida’s list of possibilities?  Here’s an alphabetical look-see:

 

Blake Anderson — North Carolina’s offensive coordinator has had his name attached to the Florida position, but he has no real ties to Muschamp.

Kerwin Bell — The head coach at the University of Jacksonville, Bell was interviewed by Muschamp after Charlie Weis departed two years ago.  That was then, this is now.  Would Muschamp feel secure enough to hire an ex-Gator quarterback who might replace him if UF’s offense looks good during an otherwise bad 2014 season?  For what it’s worth, one report has already nixed Bell from the list of candidates.

Neil Callaway — The offensive line coach at Western Kentucky is expected to be Muschamp’s top choice to replace Davis as O-line coach.  But Callaway has been a head coach at UAB and an offensive coordinator at Alabama and Georgia in the SEC.

Dave Christensen — A former Gary Pinkel protege who just lost the head coaching job at Wyoming last weekend.

Dameyune Craig — Auburn’s offensive coordinator worked with Muschamp at two different spots, but he’s an AU grad and the Tigers are currently rolling.  Coaches are mercenaries, but this one seems far-fetched.

Derek Dooley — The ex-Tennessee coach worked with Muschamp under Nick Saban.  He’s currently coaching receivers in the NFL, but his friendship/familiarity with Muschamp might make this a real possibility (as hard as that is to believe).  On the other hand, Dooley has never been an offensive coordinator.

Clay Helton — He’s Southern Cal’s offensive coordinator and the Trojans’ interim coach for their bowl game.  Helton’s father played and coached at Florida.

Lane Kiffin — Another former Tennessee head coach, Kiffin is looking for work after losing the Southern Cal job.  Don’t forget that Kiffin once accused then-Florida coach Urban Meyer of cheating.  Hard to see him getting the nod, especially after his offense struggled this season.

Mike Mularkey — The former Florida player has been an NFL man since 1994.

Kurt Roper — David Cutcliffe’s right-hand man at Duke, Roper has SEC experience.

 

Muschamp has reportedly also reached out to Noel Mazzone, UCLA’s O-coordinator, only to be rebuffed.  He could also promote from within and tab receivers coach Joker Phillips or running backs coach Brian White as offensive coordinator.  Both men have done that job before and both would provide Muschamp with a known commodity.

Our best bet?  Muschamp needs to hire someone he’s familiar with and someone with a proven resume of running quality offenses.  He also needs to find someone who’ll be willing to take what could be a one-and-done job if next year’s Gators flop.  That suggests Christensen (out of work), Helton (depending on his relationship with new USC coach Steve Sarkisian), and Kiffin (unlikely, but he was once hailed as an offensive whiz kid — as well as just plain ‘ol offensive).

Without a doubt, this one will be the most important hire of Muschamp’s young head coaching career.

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Good News For Vandy: Sarkisian Takes The USC Job

sarkFirst, he said he’d spoken with Southern Cal AD Pat Haden about the Trojans’ job.  Then he said he hadn’t interviewed at all.  Now he’s the new head coach at USC.

Good to see the Trojans have found another honest guy to replace Lane Kiffin.

With Steve Sarkisian agreeing to leave Washington for Southern Cal, Vanderbilt fans can breathe a sigh of relief.  James Franklin won’t be leaving Nashville for Los Angeles.

However…

There’s now an opening at Washington.  And there will be more openings in the coming days.  Franklin — with the fine work he’s done at Vandy — will probably have his name attached to every single one of them.  That doesn’t mean he’s leaving, but it does mean Commodore fans still have to worry about that possibility.

 

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A&M’s Sumlin OK With Southern Cal Talk

kevin-sumlin-atm-shirt-smileTexas A&M head football coach Kevin Sumlin has been mentioned as a possible candidate to replace Lane Kiffin at Southern Cal.  No wonder, Sumlin’s offense has thrived at Houston and now in the SEC as well.  He’s a top o’ the line recruiter and star on the rise by most accounts, a man who’s been linked to many an NFL job, too.

So did Sumlin play off the potential of a Southern Cal courtship as most coaches would?  Nope.  Instead, he made it clear yesterday that he was flattered by the talk.  “It means you’re winning and doing things the right way,” he said of the Trojans’ possible interest.

Technically, Kiffin hadn’t won or done things the right way when he landed the gig in LA, but we get Sumlin’s point.

The question is this: Would Sumlin trade what we’ve referred to as a goldmine job at Texas A&M for — potentially — a little more cash and a little more exposure at Southern Cal?  Doubtful.  He’s already at an all-time top 20 program.  What could Trojan AD Pat Haden really offer aside from great weather and — again, potentially — a bit more money?  If Texas A&M isn’t a lateral move, it’s certainly close.  If Sumlin wants to win in the college game, he’s in a perfect place to do it where he’s already become a hero to Aggie fans.

We believe A&M fans are right to be concerned about an eventual jump by Sumlin to the NFL, something he has said could be in his future at some point.  Another college job, even the one at Southern Cal, isn’t likely to lure Sumlin away from College Station.

(And, yes, “famous last words.”)

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Ex-Vol Coach Fulmer Says New Vol Coach Jones Faces “Lots Of Challenges”

phillip-fulmer-today-in-sweaterFormer Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, speaking at a Chattanooga school on Monday, weighed in on the job current Vol coach Butch Jones inherited:

 

“It’s going to take time.  When you go through three coaches in four or five years… Butch has lots of challenges…

Butch is a guy I’ve come to really appreciate and respect.  I think (taking in a recent practice at Jones’ request) was good for me and I think it was good for the university.  It was certainly good for my family, and all it was about was to be there to support.”

 

How far have the Vols fallen since the heady days of the late-80s, 90s, and early-2000s?  Fulmer had this to say about Saturday’s contest: “Georgia is a really, really fine football team.  Hopefully we’ll keep it close and in the fourth quarter make a play that wins the ballgame, but it’s going to be a challenge.”

When your talent level ranks about 12th or 13th in the SEC, yep, you just gotta hope you can keep it close.

On a sidnote, Fulmer showed class when given the opportunity to fire a barb at his immediate replacement, Lane Kiffin.  Asked about Kiffin’s ouster from Southern Cal.  “It’s a big business, and I’m sure there was some frustration there.”

 

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Vandy’s Franklin Listed By Just About Everyone As A Candidate At Southern Cal

James-Franklin-contemplativeThe deed is done.  Lane Kiffin is no more.  (We’ll pause so Tennessee fans can wipe away their tears of joy.)  Now the speculation is churning about who Southern California will hire to replace the one-time up-and-comer.  And one name that keeps popping up is Vanderbilt’s James Franklin.

 

“He has won at Vanderbilt and made the brand recognizable in a conference that has swallowed the program whole for the better part of a century.”

“Franklin remains one of the more impressive young coaches in the country, so USC could make this hire looking at not just the next two or three seasons but the next decade.”

“Franklin is also an excellent recruiter and would energize a fanbase that was turned off by Kiffin.”

“My sources say if offered, Franklin would jump at the job.”

“Here’s who I believe are five candidates that USC will consider to replace Lane Kiffin… 1. James Franklin, Vanderbilt.”

 

The good news for Vanderbilt is that their coach had so much success in his first two seasons on the job — and recruited so well — that he’s been noticed by darn near everyone in the country.  And that list apparently includes Trojans AD Pat Haden.

The bad news for Vanderbilt is that their coach had so much success in his first two seasons on the job — and recruited so well — that he’s been noticed by darn near everyone in the country.

Franklin said all offseason that he plans on being at Vanderbilt for a long time.  Any knowledgeable sports fan knows that coaches who say that mean “As of now I plan to stick around for a long time.”

Southern Cal is one of the plum jobs in college athletics.  The NCAA sanctions that left Kiffin with just 56 scholarship players this past weekend are going to end soon.  Kiffin’s replacement can also enjoy a year or two’s grace period by blaming the ex-Trojan coach for all that ails the Southern Cal program.

Sure, the heat would be turned up on Franklin if he were to trade a Commodore’s hat for a Trojan short sword, but if he continues to win in Nashville the heat will eventually be turned up their, too.  Expectations will rise.

Yeah, yeah, “He could go 6-6 forever at Vandy!”  Wanna bet?  Many VU fans are just as irrational as those zealots you’ll find dotting fanbases everywhere else across the SEC and America.

And speaking of fans, Franklin has on numerous occasions commented on the need for more VU fans to pack Dudley Field and support his program.  To date, Vandy can no more sell out games against foes like Austin Peay than anyone else.  Only VU’s home arena seats less than 40,000.  Not filling a 40,000-seater is the kind of the thing a coach notices.

In case you’re wondering, the LA Coliseum holds 93,000-plus.

Commodore AD David Williams and the administration at VU deserve credit for finally pouring money into their football program.  In fact, Vandy can throw cash around like many a big-time public school.  But Southern Cal is another private school.  A private school with the funds to compete with Texas as the United States’ richest football program.  So if Williams tried to ante up, Haden could easily keep raising the stakes.

One other point?  Franklin might be looking to distance himself from the rape case that’s left a cloud hanging over Nashville West End all season.  Wouldn’t you?

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Jones Works Overtime To Rebuild UT Football

gfx - they said itButch Jones says there’s no time for rest when it comes to rebuilding a perennial football power that’s fallen on hard times:

 

“I evaluate myself hour by hour, minute by minute.  Every night when I kind of slow down a little bit, I always replay the day over in my mind.  What would you have done differently?  How could you have done it better?

I think that’s all part of being a competitor, but I think the big thing is making Tennessee football better each and every day, whether it’s interacting with our fans, whether it’s recruiting, whether it’s developing our players.  That’s what we need to do to continue to grow and elevate our program back to its rightful place among the elite of college football.”

 

One of two dominant teams in the 1990s — along with Florida — Tennessee hasn’t won the SEC Championship Game since 1998 and hasn’t finished in the national top 10 since 2001.  Jones is fourth Volunteer coach in six seasons, following Phillip Fulmer (2008), Lane Kiffin (2009) and Derek Dooley (2010-12).

 

 

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USC’s Spurrier Takes A Shot At ESPN, The Other USC

gfx - they said itA few hours ago we told you that South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has an untamed tongue.  It didn’t take long for him to prove that point once more.

Today both Southern Cal and South Carolina — the two USCs from either side of the country — held their Pro Day activities.  Marcus Lattimore’s return to action was cheered at one.  ESPN’s cameras were present at the other to provide live coverage of quarterback Matt Barkley’s workout.  Apparently ESPN’s choice didn’t sit too well with Spurrier who reportedly said:

 

“I noticed both USCs had their pro timing day today.  One of them finished #7 in the country, the other was not in the top 25, yet ESPN decided to go out to the one in California which did not finish in the Top 25 and televise their day live.  It’s interesting that (ESPN) doesn’t come around here on signing day, they don’t come around here on pro timing day, and yet they us to play all these Thursday night games.  Maybe we need to consider playing on that new network, FoxSports 1.”

 

Wow.  There are a helluva lot of digs in that one quick comment.  First, Spurrier smacks around the Trojans — and old buddy Lane Kiffin — over their disappointing finish last season.  Then he goes into full attack mode against SEC television partner ESPN.  The same ESPN that is expected to unite with the league on its brand new network.

While Spurrier may feel that the folks in Bristol don’t pay enough attention to his program, they certainly pay enough cash.  ESPN pays Mike Slive’s league $150 million per year.  That’s $2.25 billion over the course of a 15-year deal for the right to ask Carolina to move some games to Thursday.

Biting the hand that feeds?  Hey, we told you Spurrier gets lippy when he’s winning.

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Texas’ Dodds Uses Fulmer, Saban To Defend His Football Coach

gfx - honest opinionFor a guy in another conference, DeLoss Dodds spends a lot of time talking about schools in the Southeastern Conference.  The Texas AD referenced a current SEC coach and a former SEC coach in an attempt to fend off critics of Longhorn football coach Mack Brown:

 

“I love stability.  I love continuity.  If you have stability, you have continuity and you’ve got good people.  It’s a formula that works.  I think we’ve got that.  If somebody tells me we need to change, I say, “Ok, but who should we hire?  (Nick) Saban?  Well, Saban isn’t going to come here.’ …

Mack does t so much better than everyone I’ve ever seen.  Instant gratification.  We want it right now.  And if it’s not working, we want to blow it up and get instant gratification.  In this kind of world, that’s not necessarily the answer.”

 

According to the reporter from The Daily Texan — the university’s student newspaper — Dodds also used the turmoil at Tennessee to defend his coach:

 

“Dodds pointed out that after Tennessee let go of Phillip Fulmer following several mediocre seasons, the Volunteers didn’t recover.  They went 23-37 in the last four years under Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley, who was fired last November.  Dodds doesn’t want that to happen to Texas.”

 

With regards to Saban, Brown is right… he won’t leave Tuscaloosa for Austin.  It’s not easy for even the biggest schools to snag proven, big-name coaches from big-time programs.  Florida’s last three head coaching hires have been two assistants and a guy from Utah.  Oklahoma’s last hire was an assistant.  Ohio State hired a man out of retirement to follow a man it hired from the FCS level.

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LB Power Chooses To Play At Southern Cal, Not In The SEC

mrsec-breaking-newsFour-star outside linebacker Quinton Powell from Daytona Beach, Florida has decided to play football for Southern Cal and Lane Kiffin.  Considering the large number of last-minute flips away from the Trojans, fending off the likes of South Carolina, Arkansas, and Florida to grab Powell is a nice win for the folks in LA.

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