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Daily Roundtable - Chizik, Kiffin or Mullen?
Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin
Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin
Posted May 26, 2009

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.

CFN Daily Roundtables

May 25

ThChizik, Kiffin or Mullen ... who'll make the biggest splash?

- May 18 No BCS, No Weis?
- May 19 Does 2008 Utah have a beef?
- May 20 When should preseason polls come out?
- May 21 Is Tebow the best QB ever?

- May 22 2009's most interesting teams 
- May 25 Heisman race sleepers 

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.

Pete Fiutak, CFN 

Q: Lane Kiffin, Gene Chizik, or Dan Mullen ... which one will make the greatest immediate impact on the SEC?

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 doing. 

Richard Cirminiello, CFN

Q: Lane Kiffin, Gene Chizik, or Dan Mullen ... which one will make the greatest immediate impact on the SEC?

A: 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.  

Matthew Zemek, CFN

Q: Lane Kiffin, Gene Chizik, or Dan Mullen ... which one will make the greatest immediate impact on the SEC?

One could say that Lane Kiffin has already made the greatest impact on the SEC. The real question is, "positive or negative?"
From the 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.

Jon Miller, Publisher,

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 and order.

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.

Hunter Ansley, Publisher,

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.