Lane Kiffin likes being different

It's no secret: Lane Kiffin likes to do things his way and he has a different approach to things than many college coaches. Instead of shying away from his status of being different, he embraces it and has the utmost confidence in what he and is staff are doing on many fronts. Go "Inside" to get a better picture of how Kiffin has approached this bowl season.

Take his approach to bowl practices as an example.

Each college football team that makes it to a bowl gets 15 additional practices as a team. A lot of coaches will take a week off or so and then continue into regular football mode. Not Kiffin and not the Tennessee Volunteers.

It's not a surprise that instead of practicing on a regular schedule, Kiffin opted to focus on recruiting and improving the talent level on his squad. All the coaches that could be out on the road were, while players stayed back on campus and worked out with the weight and conditioning staff. Sunday through Friday morning the entire coaching staff was on the road with Friday afternoon practice and Saturday practice the first week.

Then, the staff returned to the road Sunday through Friday recruiting again, securing and closing their current commitments while making a few housekeeping changes of their own.

"This week it's all about closing for the staff," Kiffin said after last Sunday's practice. "With Junior College signing day Wednesday, it's all about getting our staff in front of as many prospects as possible."

After practices on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Kiffin along with his wife Layla and children attended the graduation ceremonies Sunday before hitting the road again.

Instead of focusing on the No. 11 Hokies, the Vols opponent for the 7-5 Tennessee squad's Chick-Fil-la Bowl appearance, Kiffin has used his first five practices to focus on his team.

The Vols first five practices were physical, they were demanding and, according to Kiffin, it was just what his team needed.

"It's all about our game and improving the things we need to work on," Kiffin said. "It's about putting our players in tough situations, long drives, game-type situations so they will be ready when we play Virginia Tech."

Because of NCAA bylaws, the football staff now has to come off the road recruiting, a quiet period this weekend and a dead period beginning this Sunday. That's probably a good thing for college prospects, or this staff would be eating Christmas dinner with some of the Vols top targets.

Beginning Friday the Vols will go back to regular game week type preparation.

"Friday will be a regular Tuesday practice for us," Kiffin said earlier. "We will through a regular five day practice type situation."

The Vols will practice Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before Kiffin releases his team to have a few days to celebrate the Christmas holidays.

The team will then return on their own to Atlanta to finish the team's week-long preparation for what Kiffin calls an exciting BCS-type matchup.

"Virginia Tech is a top 10 program every year," Kiffin said. "They have had more success over the last several years, unmatched by almost anyone. This is a big time matchup for us; it's a great opportunity for our ballclub to take that next step as we build our program."

Another thing that Kiffin has done differently is how many midterm guys his coaching staff has targeted for this recruiting class.

Kiffin said last week that as many as 12 early enrollees could begin class in January and participate in a complete off-season, including spring ball.

For a team that loses several key seniors including Jonathan Crompton, Montario Hardesty and several offensive and defensive linemen, this opportunity for these young men is incredible.

It gives them the opportunity to learn the system and get acclimated to college football a few months earlier than normal.

"We are building a championship program here at Rocky Top," Kiffin has said more than on one occasion. "It's our plan to be playing in a lot of bowl games in the future."

Is it an advantage for Tennessee to be playing in a bowl game this year compared to sitting at home this time last year?

"Most definitely," UT Strength and Conditioning Coach Aaron Ausmus said. "It's our goal to be playing every year at this time of year. Instead of taking six weeks off for the holidays, these guys will only have a couple of weeks. This is big from a strength standpoint. We will be way ahead of where they were last year at the beginning of January."

According to Ausmus, most strength coaches that don't have postseason play spend at least one or two weeks getting back to the point where the players were before they left for the holidays.

"These guys have an incredible work ethic," Ausmus stated. "We asked them to work out three times a week the last couple of weeks and I would say over ninety percent of the team or higher has been here four or five times each week. They see how close this team is from being a great ball club; they are doing everything they can do to make sure we accomplish that."

When the team returns from the holiday and arrive in Atlanta, the Vols will have five more practices, another complete week to prepare for the Hokies.

"We like to have that extra week of preparation for a team," Kiffin said. "Instead of one week we take two, we will be focused on Virginia Tech from today until the game. We will be ready."

When the Vols lost two coaches on a staff that Kiffin had called one of the best in the country, the head man didn't blink or panic.

Instead he just went out and made the staff even stronger with the hire of NFL veteran and Tennessee native Kippy Brown as his wide receiver and passing game coordinator.

"We hit a grand slam with this hire," Kiffin stated during his regular Friday press conference. "Kippy is one of the best in the business. Our staff just got a lot better."

With one opening remaining on his staff, Kiffin doesn't plan on rushing the situation.

"There still several coaches we are looking at still playing football," Kiffin said. "Out of respect to them I won't release any names. I will take my time to find the very best coach for our team. To have the best coaching staff in the country you have to be patient, we plan on doing that."

Berry delaying decision?

Another question that was addressed by Kiffin Friday morning was the status of All-American Eric Berry.

"Eric had planned to make an announcement concerning his NFL status today," Kiffin said. "After sitting down and visiting with Eric this morning, he has decided to wait until after the bowl game before announcing his intentions."

Kiffin popular in Atlanta

Kiffin, being bashed by several national media members including the New York Times, was classic Kiffin at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl Coaches Luncheon on Thursday in Atlanta.

Many SEC opponents may hate the first-year brash coach, but he by far received the most attention following the completion of the luncheon. There was a line of fans who wanted to have their picture taken with him or get an autograph.

During the media time with both coaches, Frank Beamer took second stage to the young new coach. While a few talked with Beamer, most of the contingent of writers chose to stay close to Kiffin.

Imagine that.


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