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Kiffin: His own worst enemy?

Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Coaching in Knoxville for the Tennessee Volunteers has to be considered one of the best jobs in college football. The team's success over the years under a number of coaches, including the recently-departed Phillip Fulmer, has earned UT a recruiting base to be envied, even by the lofty standards of the SEC. The fan support is nothing to scoff at either, as there is no more intimidating place to play than Neyland Stadium, with over 100,000 frenzied fans waving the orange and white towels to cheer on their team. So, with that in mind, I'm sure it was an easy decision for Lane Kiffin, when the powers that be at Tennessee came calling.

However, the Tennessee brass has to be re-thinking that decision.

When he was named the 21st coach in Tennessee history back in December, Kiffin certainly said all the right things.

"I'm not promising you how many wins, how many championships; I can't do that. But I want the Tennessee family to know this: no one is going to outwork me as a head coach and no one is going to outwork our staff. That's the promise I'm giving you. The wins will come after that. You're going to see it; you're going to feel it throughout the state. It starts today."

Al Davis fired Kiffin after a little more than one season in Oakland, and his early NFL demise was blamed mostly on the tempestuous Davis by the media and fans.

It's funny how time gives us all some perspective and just maybe, Davis isn't as far out of touch as he usually appears to be.

Just taking the job with the Raiders could be construed as insane among most coaching circles, and what has transpired since only adds fuel to the argument that Kiffin may very well be out of his mind.

His first six months on the job in Knoxville haven't exactly gone smoothly. In his brief tenure with the program, Kiffin has already been reported (by his own school) for an NCAA violation revolving around his bizarre behavior regarding phone conversations with a player already committed to South Carolina.

11 scholarship players have left Tennessee for one reason or another since Lane Kiffin's arrival.
He has also taken public shots at Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators, the same Gators that have captured two of the last three national titles. Perhaps Kiffin is just trying to rally the troops, the same troops that have not beaten rival Florida since Meyer has been in Gainesville.

More important than the odd behavior is the fact that 11 scholarship players have left the program for one reason or another since Kiffin's arrival. With any new regime comes a fair share of change in terms of personnel philosophy and offensive and defensive strategy, but 11 defections seem like a lot. Four of those departed have come since mid-April, as wideouts Ahmad Paige and Tyler Maples, along with quarterback B.J. Coleman and offensive guard Darris Sawtelle, are all seeking greener pastures.

More recently, it has come to light that Kiffin signed 19-year old Daniel Hood to a scholarship at the beginning of this month. Hood is by all accounts a talented defensive lineman in the prep ranks, but comes with a ton of baggage. When he was 13 years old, he participated in the rape of a 14-year old girl, Hood's first cousin. A childhood friend is serving a 10-year prison sentence for the crime. Hood's case was handled through the juvenile court. He took part in a rehabilitation program and then enrolled at Knoxville Catholic High School, where he led his team to a state title.

At 6-5, 255 pounds, there is no question that Hood has matured physically to handle the rigors of football in the SEC. The real question is how has he matured as a person. I'm all for second chances, but did Kiffin really need to add to his numerous questionable decisions before he has even coached a single game for the Vols?

I'm sure Kiffin and his staff have done plenty of research into Hood's past, but Tennessee is now open to huge criticism that has come from all angles, and will continue to come as Hood's career at Tennessee unfolds.

Does the young man deserve a second chance? That all depends on how you view his transgressions. The argument that he was just a child when he made a huge mistake is a bit tainted when you actually read the court transcripts from the case.

He has by all accounts (family, friends, school) turned his life around, become a model student, athlete and member of the community. Even the victim of his crime sent a letter of recommendation to the University of Tennessee on his behalf. That's all well and good, but does that, coupled with the fact that he knows how to get after the quarterback, mean he deserves a scholarship to the state's top program?

Consider that up to 27 schools were interested in Hood's football skills, but most took any offers off the table after learning of his past.

Only time will tell if Kiffin made the right decision in this case.

However, his early track record in Knoxville isn't exactly peppered with a lot of those.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.
Scott Haynes

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