A new era began in Knoxville Monday when the University of Tennessee introduced Lane Kiffin as their new head football coach.
Kiffin, 33, is much more experienced than many observers are giving him credit for and brings NFL dream clout and past recruiting prowess to Knoxville.
Once Kiffin paid his sincere homage to former coach Phillip Fulmer he quickly addressed what has been the meat of the problem in East Tennessee for many years, building the fence to keep the homegrown talent in state, while at the same time, scouring the rest of the southeast for playmakers.
It does not seem that being voted Mr. Football in Tennessee attracted much attention in past recruiting efforts by Tennessee. Two-time winner Golden Tate from Pope John Paul II is shining under the Golden Dome in South Bend while local hero, Dont'a Hightower from Marshall County High School went off to the Heart of Dixie, really never giving much serious thought to the Volunteers.
Quarterback Randall Cobb from Alcoa, just a shovel pass away from the UT campus, went north to Kentucky and could have started for the Vols behind center this season.
Kiffin gets it and hit the ground running this past weekend, jetting on a series of salvage missions, trying to stave off several defectors and to re-sharpen his recruiting claws he used to pull in prey with while at USC under Pete Carroll.
Does anyone remember Patrick Turner from Goodpasture? Kiffin sealed that deal for the Trojans in 2005.
The Vols 2009 recruiting class is currently ranked #14 by Scout.com, trailing SEC rivals LSU (4), Auburn (5), Georgia (8), and Alabama (10).
South Carolina and Florida are on the orange and white heels, ranked 16 and 17 respectively.
Only two of the prospects for 2009 played on the gridirons of Tennessee, Zach Rogers from David Lipscomb and offensive lineman Kevin Revis from Rhea County High School.
On the list are two players from Georgia, one from Alabama, Texas and South Carolina, and zero from Kentucky, zero from Arkansas, zero from Florida, zero from Louisiana, and zero from North Carolina.
Kiffin will change that formula with the addition of his father, Monte Kiffin, the current Tampa Bay Buccaneer defensive coordinator and 2002 Super Bowl champion. What kid coming out of high school would not want to be part of an NFL scheme, preparing them for the draft and a pro future?
Speculation also centers on another former USC coach, Ed Orgeron, who was the National Recruiter of the Year in 2004. Orgeron was fired as Ole Miss coach last season and now works as the defensive line coach for the New Orleans Saints.
Coming from Steve Spurrier's staff at South Carolina is Kiffin's brother in law, former Gamecocks recruiting coordinator David Reaves who will serve as quarterback's coach.
Reaves, who helped the Gamecocks' land a consensus top-10 recruiting class two years ago, was the lead recruiter on several of South Carolina's top remaining targets, including former UT commit Jarvis Giles.
Giles committed to the Volunteers before wavering after Fulmer announced his resignation last month.
According to many news sources, Giles was the first recruit Kiffin contacted when he got the head job.
Kiffin is on a mission, he knows what he is doing, has the vitality to keep going, possesses the charisma to seal deals and deflect media attention, grew up with a chalkboard in his hand, and no doubt feels that he can and will win.
Word has it, that the ol' ball coach from South of the Border is mad and spewing again, so the Volunteers are already on the right track.