"Even if I find someone I trust enough to call the plays, it will still be my system," he said this week. "I'm going with the system that I ran all the way back to USC."
No wonder. Southern Cal's offense during his stint there was the most potent in all of college football. He coordinated a 2005 attack that ranked No. 1 nationally in total offense (579.8 yards) and No. 2 in scoring (49.1 points), setting Pac 10 records for total yards, first downs, points, touchdowns and PATs. The '05 Trojans became the first team in NCAA history to feature a 3,000-yard passer (Matt Leinart), two 1,000-yard rushers (Reggie Bush and LenDale White) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Dwayne Jarrett) in the same season.
Even without Leinart, Bush and White, Kiffin's 2006 attack was coolly efficient. It featured two 1,000-yard receivers (Jarrett and Steve Smith), a 3,000-yard passer (John David Booty) and led the Pac 10 in passing efficiency at 142.8.
Whether Kiffin calls Tennessee's plays next fall remains to be seen. During his stint as head coach of the NFL's Oakland Raiders, he called the plays in 2007 but delegated that duty to an assistant in 2008.
"The only way I'm not going to call the plays," he said, "it's got to be somebody that I feel great with, that I have a relationship with already that I can really trust."
Although he has never been a head coach at the collegiate level, Kiffin is convinced that his experience at Southern Cal equipped him to handle that chore. He served as Pete Carroll's offensive coordinator AND recruiting coordinator in 2005 and 2006.
"There was no blueprint for that because there was nobody in the country who was an offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator," Kiffin recalled. "Pete said, 'I'm doing this because you're the only guy I trust to do it, No. 1. And, No. 2, because it's going to prepare you for when you're going to be a head coach.'"