Vols hire ace recruiter

Underscoring his conviction that recruiting is the key to success, Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin today announced the hiring of a man he considers to be "the best recruiter anywhere."

That would be Ed Orgeron, who built a reputation for recognizing and securing blue-chip talent during his days as an assistant at Southern Cal (1998-2004) and head coach at Ole Miss (2005-07). Orgeron will serve as assistant head coach, recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach.

Kiffin said it is "extremely, extremely important to get Ed Orgeron," who he called "the best defensive line coach in the country, NFL or college."

Then, much as he has done in two previous news conferences, Kiffin launched into an all-out recruiting pitch built on the twin premises that (1) Coming to UT provides a chance to play immediately and (2) Coming to UT provides a chance to fulfill your NFL dreams.

"What we're able to do is to bring somebody who has put a number of first-round picks into the NFL, who has coached Freshman All-Americans, put 'em on the field right away and made 'em the best player they could be to get them ready for the day they had to go to the NFL."

Still, Orgeron's greatest value to Tennessee is as a recruiter, not as a coach. Kiffin all but conceded as much, pointing to the level of talent Orgeron lured to USC and Ole Miss.

"One of the most talented teams in the SEC is Ole Miss," Kiffin noted. "Ed Orgeron, as everyone knows, put that team together, and you see what's happening with that team right now."

Orgeron's work on the recruiting trail was even more impressive at Southern Cal, where he helped assemble a roster that has turned the Trojans into a virtual dynasty.

"You see one of the greatest runs in all of college football at Southern Cal right now," Kiffin said, "and Ed Orgeron put that team together from the first day he was there."

One of Orgeron's last USC recruits was Mark Sanchez, who completed 28 of 35 passes for 413 yards and four touchdowns yesterday in the Trojans' 38-24 Rose Bowl rout of Penn State.

Orgeron, who coached the New Orleans Saints' defensive line in 2008, said he's happy to be back in college ball. Calling it "a privilege" to be working for Lane Kiffin, the newest Vol aide cited an added bonus.

"When he got the best defensive coordinator in the history of college football, Monte Kiffin, I knew this is the place I wanted to come," Orgeron said, adding that he always considered UT "one of the top five places in the country that you'd want to coach or play football at."

With Tennessee coming off a 5-7 disaster that cost Phillip Fulmer his job, the Vols have some ground to make up before they can challenge for supremacy in the rugged SEC. Having coached at Ole Miss, Orgeron understands how tough the league is.

"I know that in order for us to go to the SEC Championship, win it and win the national championship – which I know is Lane Kiffin's goal – we have to go toe to toe with Florida, toe to toe with Alabama, toe to toe with LSU and Georgia in the recruiting battles," Orgeron said, "and we have to win in order to beat them on the field."

Tennessee's pursuit of Orgeron was no simple matter. LSU also made a run at him, and the Saints tried hard to keep him. What swayed him?

"The reason I'm here at the University of Tennessee is because of Lane Kiffin and Monte Kiffin," Orgeron said. "I believe in those guys. I think they're two of the brightest minds in football. I wanted to come here and put myself in a position to where I can grow as a coach and help them as a recruiting coordinator."

While vacationing with his family in Destin, Fla., last week, Orgeron put together a list of positives and negatives for each of the jobs he was considering – UT, LSU and the Saints. Tennessee came out plus-17. An impromptu visit from Lane and Monte Kiffin then sealed the deal.

While Orgeron can't promise the Vols will sign a top-five recruiting class in February or win 10 games next fall, he made one guarantee that UT fans should find quite encouraging.

"There is no one that will outwork us," he said. "No one. You'd better wake up early and go to bed late."

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