SEC Post-Spring Notes: Tennessee
*Tennessee introduced Lane Kiffin as its 21st head coach in a Dec. 1 press conference. Kiffin comes to the Vols as the former head coach of the Oakland Raiders and former offensive coordinator at USC under Pete Carroll. The 33-year-old was the youngest head coach in modern NFL history and now stands as the youngest head coach in major college football.
*To help make the transition to Knoxville and the SEC, Lane Kiffin assembled one of the most impressive assistant coaching staff's in football history. His father, Monte, takes over as Tennessee's defensive coordinator after 26 brilliant seasons in the NFL, the last 13 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Monte Kiffin was the longest tenured defensive coordinator in the NFL and, as developer of the Tampa Cover 2 defense, is generally considered one of the modern era's best defensive minds.
The Vols also added Ed Orgeron of the New Orleans Saints (and formerly head coach at Mississippi) as assistant head coach, defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator; Jim Chaney from the St. Louis Rams as offensive coordinator; Lance Thompson from Alabama coaching linebackers; Frank Wilson from Southern Mississippi coaching wide receivers; Willie Mack Garza from North Dakota State coaching defensive backs; Eddie Gran from Auburn coaching running backs; James Cregg from the Oakland Raiders coaching the offensive line and tight ends; and David Reaves from South Carolina coaching quarterbacks. Six of Tennessee's nine assistant coaches previously served as recruiting coordinators.
*Safety Eric Berry enters the 2009 season just 14 yards shy of the major college record for interception return yards (501). Last season's consensus SEC Defensive Player of the Year already has broken interception return yardage records that had stood for combined 187 years, now owning records for a UT season (previously stood 37 years), UT career (39 years), SEC season (52 years) and SEC career (59 years). Berry last season became the first Tennessee player to claim All-America unanimous honors since 1990. He led the nation with 265 interception return yards, and his seven interceptions tied for tops. For his career in just 26 games, Berry has 12 interceptions for 487 return yards and three touchdowns. Interception returns for touchdowns last year came against Mississippi State (72 yards) and Vandy (45 yards), and his 2007 interception return of 96 yards at Florida tied for third-longest in UT history.
*Never shying away from elite competition, UT's future schedules feature matchups against some of the nation's top-flight college football programs. The Vols' slated opponents through the next decade include: UCLA (2009), Oregon (2010, 2013), North Carolina (2011, 2012), North Carolina State (2012, 2013), Oklahoma (2014, 2015), Nebraska (2016, 2017) and Ohio State (2018, 2019). Tennessee's 12 opponents for 2009 posted a combined record of 86-68 (.558) in 2008. Eight of the 12 teams qualified for bowls, with five earning wins.
*Two Tennessee football players hoping to make an impact in head coach Lane Kiffin's debut season have earned most improved spring practice honors. Senior wide receiver Quintin Hancock takes home the Harvey Robinson Award given to offensive player, while junior defensive end Chris Walker receives the Andy Spiva Award as most improved defensive stalwart. Hancock, a 6-3, 207-pounder from St. Augustine, Fla., played in 12 games last season. Included was his first career start in the finale against Kentucky. On the defensive side, Walker has caused the word "unblockable" to be a familiar adjective when describing his ability to reach the opposition backfield. Walker played in 11 games last season, contributing 15 tackles and two forced fumbles. Four of those tackles were for a combined 22 lost yards, including three sacks for minus-19.
*Tennessee claimed its 35th straight SEC attendance crown in 2008. The Volunteers led the league and finished fourth nationally with a total attendance of 710,136 over seven games for an average attendance of 101,448.
*According to USA Today, Tennessee's 120 NFL draft picks between 1988-2008 leads the SEC and is third nationally behind only Miami (Fla.) and Florida State. Tennessee was third in the SEC with 34 former players on 2008 opening-day NFL rosters -- this after two straight years (2005-06) atop the conference listing.
*Lane Kiffin had only two months as head coach to put together his 2009 signing class, and he had a full coaching staff to help him for only the last three weeks before National Signing Day. Nonetheless, Kiffin and his staff assembled one of the nation's top classes, a group ranked in the top 10 in the country by both Rivals.com and Scout.com. Tennessee signed 22 prospective student-athletes, including two who earned a five-star rating from one of the two recruiting services and 13 who were rated as four-star prospects. One of the five-star prospects, running back Bryce Brown was considered the No. 1 prospect in the nation by multiple recruiting publications, making him the highest-rated prospect ever to sign with Tennessee.
*For the fourth-straight season, Tennessee was among the conference leaders with 28 football players named to the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll. A total of 129 Vols have been selected for conference academic honors in the last five seasons, an average of almost 26 per year. The 28 Vol honorees studied 15 different disciplines and had an average GPA of 3.30. Fourteen of the 28 Vols were making at least their second appearance on the academic honor roll.
*Tennessee has won 422 all-time games at Neyland Stadium. That is the second highest win total for any school in the nation at its current home venue. Only Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium (428 wins) has hosted more victories for its team—and Bobby Dodd Stadium (1913) opened eight years before Neyland Stadium (1921).
*The Vols return five offensive players who started at least 10 games in 2008 and four more players who started at least six games. On defense, Tennessee has four players returning who started at least 10 games. Beyond those four Vols, the Tennessee defense returns a total of only 12 total starts from the 2008 season. Three Vols -- Eric Berry, Josh McNeil and Chris Scott -- have active start streaks longer than 20 games.
*Since conference expansion in 1992, Tennessee owns the best interdivision record among SEC teams, going 35-15-1 (.696) against Western Division foes since the league split in 1992.
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