Monday, December 15, 2008

Auburn and UT Headed in Different Directions

Monte Kiffin On His Way to Knoxville

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin ended the speculation on Sunday by announcing that he would, indeed, join his son’s coaching staff at the University of Tennessee.

Some see this as old news, but I was a taking a “believe when I see it” approach like Tony Dungy said he was taking about the rumors that Kiffin would follow his son to Knoxville.

Old or not, this is big news for Tennessee football because it confirms that the Vols were the biggest winners in the coaching free agent market.

While the Kiffin’s success on the field will ultimately determine whether or not Mike Hamilton made a good decision, Hamilton is looking as good as any AD in the country after hiring a big name offensive guru as his head coach who brings with him a legendary NFL defensive coordinator.

There is really no precedent for a major college program simply stealing away one of the best NFL coordinators, let alone one of the highest paid, to do the same job at the collegiate level.
Clearly, from day one the Kiffin hire was a package deal orchestrated by Hamilton and at this early point in the process it’s a decision that is looking better and better.

The elder Kiffin will have two future NFL safeties at his disposal in his first year, including Eric Berry, who will be seen as an early candidate for the Heisman Trophy. He’ll also have two quality returning cornerbacks to plug into his famed “Tampa Cover 2” defensive scheme which could wreak serious havoc in the SEC as early as next season.

At this point, too much attention has been paid to the few deficiencies on Lane Kiffin’s resume and too little attention has been paid to the fact that his father, an elite NFL coach, is coming with him to run his son’s defense, therefore allowing the younger Kiffin to focus primarily the offense, something he has proven he can do very well.

Auburn Replaces Tuberville with…Gene Chizik?

I rarely agree with Charles Barkley, but he’s dead on this time with his sharp criticism of his alma mater over the hiring of former Iowa State head coach Gene Chizik.

Barkley, who had openly endorsed Buffalo’s Turner Gill for the Auburn job, said this about the decision, “You can say it’s not about the race, but you can’t compare the two resumes and say [Chizik] deserved the job. Out of all the coaches they interviewed, Chizik probably had the worst resume.”

Let’s hope Auburn didn’t interview anybody with a resume that included something worse than Chizik’s current 10-game losing streak at Iowa State.

We will never know if Turner Gill was the right coach for Auburn, but I’m convinced that Gene Chizik is not the answer. What began as an attempt by Auburn to strike fear in Nick Saban’s heart, instead, turned into a reason for Saban to be licking his chops at the Tigers' new coach with a 5-19 record as a head coach.

Rumors have it that the former Auburn defensive coordinator was the favorite of a few high level boosters, despite his obvious failures at Iowa State. But the fact is that if Chizik can’t win a conference game in the Big 12, he won’t last more than three years in the SEC.

And the irony is that in those three years Chizik will never beat Saban, the man he was brought in to compete with. He probably won’t even come close. You heard it here first.

The firing of head coach Tommy Tuberville was the most controversial of any this season in
college football, given his six-game winning streak against rival Alabama entering this season and the program being just four years removed from an undefeated season.

As a result, Auburn needed to make a splash, and, in a relatively shallow coaching market, could have done so with Gill.

His quick ascent at Buffalo would have made him a steal for Auburn and he would have had an opportunity to carve a unique recruiting niche in the SEC as an African American.

Chizik, on the other hand, is going to have to convince recruits that he actually knows how to win football games as a head coach, a task that won’t be easy.

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