Tennessee Players March To A New Tune
Lane Kiffin's approach to players demonstrates changes are occurring.
By: BE Coleman
It did not take Lane Kiffin more than 30 days to let the players he inherited as the 21st head football coach at Tennessee to quickly realize he meant business. After more than six months, positive results are coming forth.
The most noting, finds Tennessee has not made headlines with player arrests that had been a common thread since 2004 for the program. Writers in Tennessee have enjoyed not having to go to work at 3:30 AM to cover the latest sting that became a recurring frequency in Knoxville.
In 2008, more than six players were arrested that brought further ridicule and more negative headlines to the declining program. It would be further noted that one of the player’s arrests; single handedly contributed to two of the Vols seven losses last season.
The incidents sparked the inception of the Fulmer Cup, an award for any NCAA or NAIA program with the most players arrested in an off season. Kiffin rectified the problem quickly with several player dismissals, which included one highly touted defensive starter.
The overall end results are pleasing to the Tennessee Family, and Kiffin is pleased that there have been no incidents to date. Less than 30 days of his hiring, Kiffin laid down the law to the players.
Kiffin made the rules perfectly clear, with concise explanations and then backed up his words to his players quickly with demonstrated action.
Kiffin personally visited players in their respective classrooms, checking roll himself while missing time that he was able to go recruiting. It shocked players to see him in their classrooms when they arrived, especially All American Eric Berry.
The Vols new mentor did not suspect Berry of any wrong doing; he just showed the players that the top name on the roster was not immune from the same discipline as everyone else. No special treatment, no player anointment's.
The result from his roll checks find the 85 man football program has raised its GPA this spring semester that was the highest mark since – 2004. Kiffin’s three hour long visits clearly demonstrated who was running the program, and it’s not the players in charge of Tennessee Football.
Players alluded to the new coaching stance when spring drills opened up in March. The common theme was, “he’s not here to be our friend…he is here to coach us and teach us.”
Installing a new measure of discipline in Knoxville was the first step Kiffin took; he then erased everyone’s status – except Berry’s, that gave opportunity to players who were losing hope. That result saw an inspired spring game like no other in decades, with plays run off at a quickened – heightened pace.
Kiffin is aware he will be judged himself soon enough, Peyton Manning’s response this week warned against premature analysis. Manning noted Kiffin has two years before he can be judged -- in year three.
But judging from the early results, it is not hard to see that Tennessee Football is taking steps in a better direction during the first six months.
After the University of Florida’s response to the 24 player arrests in Gainesville since Urban Meyer took over in 2006; that two years of those players were not his, owes the same debt of recognition to the Vols new skipper and his timeline.
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