Kiffin landed a devastating one-two combo to the Gators' breadbasket on national signing day, taking away two outstanding athletes — No. 18 corner Marsalis Teague of Henry County and No. 6 receiver — both of whom were Florida commitments.
Comments he made at a UT booster breakfast following NSD rubbed salt into an open wound and would lead to the well known official apology KIffin extended to Urban Meyers after a public reproach by the SEC office. Not that the Florida-Tennessee series needs anymore intensity, but the incident is sure to heighten the emotions when these teams face off in The Swamp next September.
The idea of wading into Gator infested waters to fish might seem bold, but when you live in the same six-team division with Florida bold measures are required to compete. First, and foremost, it's about getting faster since Florida has better team speed than any current collegiate program with an estimated 16 players running sub 4.5 times in the 40.
When Tennessee had its greatest success under Phillip Fulmer the Vols held that distinction, enjoying a speed advantage against virtually every opponent they lined up against. The population in Florida along with the temperate climate breeds speed on the gridiron and in track as players can train outdoors 365 days a year.
There are other advantages to taking the fight to Florida. Any prospect you can acquire is one you take away from the Gators, forcing them to range further for replacement level prospects. You add players that have an intrinsic desire to beat Gators either because they chose that challenge or they weren't offered by Florida. Either is a proven passion boost. Finally in changeling the Gators on enemy territory sends a message to your players that you may be beaten but you won't be intimidated. That hasn't been the case with Meyers at the helm.
Flush with recruiting success down south, Kiffin & Co. appear ready to launch another invasion of Florida's rich football recruiting fields in 2010. From preliminary examination it appears UT has extended more scholarship offers to prospects from Florida than it has any other state. Here's a look at ten Sunshine State stars the Vols have offered so far. • Lamarcus Joyner, 5-9, 162, 4.34, St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Ft. Lauderdale. Big time cover corner with the speed to play either side of the ball.
• Marvin Robinson, 6-1, 195, 4.61, Region High School, Eagle Lake. A big-safety with great instincts he has been compared to former Florida standout Reggie Nelson, but his future could be a linebacker.
• Corey Lemonier, 6-4, 225, 4.80, Hialeah Senior High School, Hialeah. Has the look on a topnotch defensive end and pass rusher (10 sacks as a junior). Has been offered by Florida, UT, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Miami and West Virginia among others.
• Ted Meline, 6-3, 170, 4.40, Booker T. Washington High, Miami. Lost most of junior season to injury but is a talented wide receiver with great upside. He counts offers from Alabama, Auburn, Boston College, Central Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Oregon, South Florida, and Tennessee. That's without film from his junior campaign.
• Darin Hall, 5-11, 200, 4.50, Lely High School, Naples, hasn't been offered yet by UT, but after a junior season in which Hall rushed for nearly 1,800 yards and 21 touchdowns, adding 200 yards receiving, he is a definite target of interest.
• Jakhari Gore, 5-8, 175, 4.58, Christopher Columbus High School, Miami, is a multitalented running back, who ran for 1,156 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior. Gore also has offers from USC, Florida and Miami among others.
• Maurice Hagens, 6-1, 225, 4.80, Tampa Bay Technical High School, Tampa. A true fullback and excellent lead blocker, he rushed for 1,019 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior and for over 1,400 yards as a sophomore. Has been offered by LSU, Tennessee and South Carolina. Also being pursued by Florida.
• DeJoshua Johnson, 5-10, 155, 4.45, Pahokee High School, is a wide receiver from the same school that produced Richardson and shares similar talents to the UT signee. Split time at QB and wideout as a junior producing 500-plus yards in each role. Alabama, Florida, Miami, South Florida and Florida State are all in hot pursuit.
• Dan Koenig, 6-6, 255, Cape Coral High School, Cape Coral. An offensive tackle. A surprisingly agile offensive tackle with a great frame and solid game, he has also been offered by Alabama, Duke, Oklahoma State and Wake Forest among others.
• Delvin Jones, 6-5, 230, 4.56, Miami Palmetto Senior High School, Miami. An athletic defensive end who recorded 20 sacks as a junior and has turned a 10.7 time in the 100 meters in track. Tennessee and Ole Miss are the teams that have offered while Florida, Miami, North Carolina and USC are all interested.