UT Loaded for Bear?

With only 34 days remaining in the current hunting season, the Tennessee Volunteers under the direction of youthful, dynamic head coach Lane KIffin appears to be loaded for bear with a coaching staff coming together that is strictly high caliber.

How much impact UT's stacked staff can have down the stretch is debatable, but it would seem the players with the best chance of an NFL future would be the ones most interested in Tennessee. A high-profile program with a star studded coaching staff, first-class facilities, top flight competition and a huge fan base would be the best type of preparation for a future of play for pay in the League. But the truth is that they all think about a future in the League. It's just a difference of degree.

However it won't be until the Vols can press that image over the course of a complete recruiting campaign will we be able fully measure its impact in the SEC.

However there are some other things we can be more sure of when it comes to the transformation currently taking place on The Hill.

One thing we know is the Vols will have more former head coaches on staff than UT has had on staff since forever. In fact, before Kiffin's hire to replace the disposed Phillip Fulmer, the Vols haven't had but two head coaches with prior head coaching experience at another Division I program. They are Johnny Majors and Bowden Wyatt, two former Vol single-wing tailbacks. Not Fulmer, not Bill Battle, not Doug Dickey, not Jim McDonald, not Harvey Robinson, not John Barnhill, not even General Robert R. Neyland himself. So having a minimum of three former Division I or NFL head coaches — Lane KIffin (Oakland Raiders) Monte KIffin (North Carolina State), Ed Orgeron (Ole Miss) — on a single staff is an unprecedented development in Tennessee's storied football history.

Another thing a staff as loaded with all-stars as UT's underscores is Lane Kiffin's self assuredness and confidence in his broad knowledge of the game, particularly the offensive side of the ball. The defense couldn't be in better hands.

Kiffin has conducted an almost covert hiring campaign but appears ready to deliver on his promise to put together a staff Tennessee could be proud of. He has gone about that task with focus and verve, while also making some inroads on the recruiting trail despite limited manpower.

In assembling a great staff Kiffin is putting into place a brain trust that will not only challenge him, but will teach him. More importantly it's a group that will teach the Vols a new style of football in a short period of time. Then it will motivate them by challenging them to compete against each other for playing time. Then it will prepare them and send them out with solid game plans. The importance of such contributions can't be overstated in an era of equality.

Just like hiring a head coach and a new staff it is a process so is mixing a new staff with a team of existing players. There will be building of relationships and trust. There will be a rebuilding of team confidence. Part of that confidence will come from having a coaching staff that can develop talent and mold young men into hard nosed football players.

Lane Kiffin doesn't appear to be worried he'll hire his replacement, he wasn't bothered by Steve Spurrier's barbs, or criticism for dissuading two UT quarterbacks commitments to decommit.

It's interesting to note that only David Cutcliffe left Tennessee to become a head coach during Fulmer's 16 full seasons. And he did it twice.


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