Friday, May 22, 2009

More of the same

I'm probably in the vast minority here, but I'm having a hard time getting worked up anymore about the stupid things Lane Kiffin does (ooh, a Twitter controversy!!!). Not because he's stopped doing stupid things, of course -- he hasn't -- but because it's starting to feel like throwing a twig into a bonfire. What's the point?

So I'll go the other direction and give him some credit for not discriminating in his ability to generate anger. It's no surprise that Florida fans and the rest of the SEC hate him -- they hate everybody -- but when you can generate the same feelings within your own locker room ... as Ron Burgundy would say, that's amazing.

With new Volunteers strength coach Mark Smith leaving the program due to some undisclosed issues that "had been brewing for some time," Kiffin has now seen the departure of an assistant coach and a whopping 11 scholarship players. I should clarify here and point out that there may well be additional reasons beyond Kiffin's pure evil for those players' departure -- I don't feel like researching the background of each one -- but I can say from personal experience that this presents more of a problem than anything Kiffin has done or said so far.

I'm not referring to the long-term concern of whether players actually like Kiffin; if he wins, they'll like him. What I'm talking about is the numbers issue, and the fact that the loss of 11 scholarship players simply can't be accounted for when it comes to depth.

Watching Michigan last year, it was painfully evident that any chance the offense had at being good (after the graduation/early exit of six starters) was taken away when players continued to defect for various reasons. It was bad enough when the season began with a former defensive tackle starting on the offensive line and a walk-on starting at QB, but things became much worse when a number of players proved ineffective or were injured, because there was absolutely nobody behind most of those guys.

Significant roster turnover has become fairly commonplace after a coaching change and shouldn't by itself be considered an indictment of what Kiffin is doing. Tennessee might even be fortunate enough to avoid those issues, of course (although they probably won't if karma has any say). But Kiffin's attention-grabbing schtick, which is disturbingly pleasing to Volunteers athletic director Mike Hamilton ...
"When you think about the fact that our football program was 5-7 last year, and we've got a coach that's not coached a game yet in college football, but yet we're on the front page of USA Today sports ... it's really quite amazing."
... probably won't go over quite as well if his debut season goes anything like Rich Rodriguez's.

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