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Daily Roundtable - Chizik, Kiffin or Mullen?
Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin
Who'll make the biggest immediate impact on the SEC, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin, or Auburn head coach Gene Chizik? It's the Tuesday topic in the CFN Daily Roundtable Discussion.
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Over the next several weeks, as part of the CFN 2009 Preview, we'll
examine some of the key questions going into the year with a
daily discussion of the big topics.
Q: Lane Kiffin, Gene Chizik, or Dan
Mullen ... which one will make the greatest immediate impact on the SEC?
A: Can I say
Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn? Actually, I'm going with
Mullen, only because Tennessee and Auburn might be one or two games
better this year under Kiffin and Chizik, respectively. Mississippi
State went 4-8 last year with the worst scoring offense in a bad year
for SEC scoring offenses. The Bulldogs beat Vanderbilt and Arkansas in
SEC play, and now, with a change up in coaching and philosophies, could
come up with a stunner or two to screw up the rest of the SEC. MSU lost
three games (Louisiana Tech, Auburn, and Kentucky) that it would've won
with a merely average offense, meaning it should've been 7-5. While
that's not always the fairest or most correct way of looking at a
season, considering the Auburn loss was 3-2 and the UK defeat was 14-13,
at worst, Mullen likely would've made the team 6-6 if he was the head
man last season.
Now, if the question is who will make the biggest
impact for down the road, it'll be Kiffin but not because he'll be a
star. Assistant coach Ed Orgeron will recruit the heck out the program
and will bring in the talent to Tennessee. Kiffin will be the
beneficiary. For now, the Tennessee offense will get the ball down the
field more and it should show more pop, but the program, like Auburn's
is retooling. Give each a year for everyone to figure out what they're
Q: Lane Kiffin, Gene Chizik, or
Dan Mullen ... which one will make the greatest immediate impact on the
Kiffin. That’s no indictment of Chizik or Mullen, who could win up being
great hires and innovators with their unique offenses, but are just
facing taller hurdles to success in the early going.
Now, to be
fair, I was not a fan of the Kiffin hiring and I’m still not sold that
he’s the long-term solution to break the relative malaise that marked
the end of the Phil Fulmer era. Before jumping on that bandwagon, I need
to see that he can be a big-time head coach, particularly in a league
flush with elite coaches. However, I am intrigued by Kiffin. Like a
modern-day Rick Neuheisel, he brings a youthful energy and an ability to
attract talent, both on the field and on the sidelines. Plus, he’s one
of those guys that just sends off signals that he’s going to do whatever
it takes and put in all the hours necessary to get Tennessee back on top
of the SEC. You have to like that. Yeah, he’s stuck his foot in his
mouth faster than a contortionist might, but with maturity and a little
humility, he’ll learn to bite his tongue more frequently in the future.
Is Kiffin the next Mark Richt or Steve Spurrier in the SEC? You’d be
foolish to try and connect those dots so early in his career. He
shouldn’t, however, be underestimated or dismissed as some
wet-behind-the-ears rookie, who can easily be overlooked. He’s off to an
interesting start, and is liable to catch a few opponents off guard in
his first ride in the saddle.
Q: Lane Kiffin, Gene Chizik,
or Dan Mullen ... which one will make the greatest immediate impact on
One could say that Lane Kiffin has already made the greatest impact on
the SEC. The real question is, "positive or negative?"
skirmishes with Florida, to the presence of his dad as defensive
coordinator, to the internal dramas in Knoxville, it seems pretty clear
that the constant stream of publicity cranked out near the Tennessee
River is either going to create a spectacularly revived Volunteer
program, or a crash-and-burn catastrophe. It will be nearly impossible
for Kiffin's tenure at UT to be viewed as a mild, modest, mellow, and
middling period of time. The young lad is either going to soar or
plummet--perhaps not fairly, but as the example of Jim Donnan proved at
Georgia, coaches who run their mouths early in their tenure (or at
least, before they've won big) must deliver on their talk in order to
flourish. If they don't, they'll go down in flames. At Arizona or
Virginia or Minnesota (just to give a few examples), Kiffin wouldn't
have upped the ante all that much with his first few months of sound
bite specials; at a brand-name SEC program, he's created a win-or-else
dynamic that will define his stay at Tennessee.
Q: Lane Kiffin, Gene Chizik, or Dan Mullen ... which one will make the
greatest immediate impact on the SEC?
A: Kiffin in
a landslide, because he is already making at impact on the SEC, just not
the kind of impact that Tennessee fans are going to be fond of in the
long run. I have to hand it
to him; Kiffin has me paying a lot of attention to the Vols in the
offseason, something I don’t usually make a habit of doing.
I am borderline obsessed with either is blatant disregard for
rule and order, or his amazing level of naïveté when it comes to rules
When the commissioner of the
SEC (Mike Slive) has to publicly admonish you, citing that conference’s
code of ethics, you know there is a problem.
Heck, I didn’t realize the SEC had a code of ethics, so that was
news to me.
Kiffin is a star going
supernova. At some point,
that thing could be the brightest object in the solar system…getting
bigger and bigger, until one day, it explodes…but you do know what comes
of a star that goes supernova, right?
A very dense object that sometimes turns into a black hole.
Look it up.
Q: Lane Kiffin, Gene Chizik, or Dan Mullen ... which one will make the
greatest immediate impact on the SEC
A: Lane Kiffin has the early lead in this department,
but I'm going with Chizik. Tennessee will always be Tennessee. They'll
be a strong program that underachieves in spurts and surprises when no
one's looking. They're a Capital One bowl team nearly every year no
matter who's coaching. Mississippi State has been off an on for years,
and while Mullen may turn them into a semi-consistent Independence Bowl
team, that's not exactly a huge impact.
But Auburn, a team that
was basically in the SEC West discussion every year under Tommy
Tuberville, will undergo a drastic change. I think the days of Auburn
being a near lock for top 25 status are over. Is there really anyone
out there that thinks Chizik's Auburn teams can compete with Nick Saban
at Bama, the talent at LSU, the things Houston Nutt is doing at Ole
Miss, or even the direction Bobby Petrino has Arkansas headed? That's
the biggest impact I see here -- Auburn fading into obscurity.
And that fade will start immediately. After an awful year running a
spread attack, they are now trying to do it again with yet another
coordinator coaching the same players who just don't fit the system. If
Tuberville couldn't win with this team, then I don't think Chizik can,
especially when he insists on making the same mistakes.