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Kiffin Leaves Vols for Trojans

January 12, 2010

Lane Kiffin Leaves the Vols

Who saw this coming?  Lane Kiffin has left Tennessee after only one season to take the newly vacated head coach’s position at Southern Cal.  Kiffin’s back in California.

Kiffin was an assistant at USC under Pete Carroll before he jumped to the NFL to take the head coaching job with the Oakland Raiders under Al Davis in 2007.  Kiffin lasted little more than one season and found himself on the job market again the first four games of the 2008 NFL season.    By that point, Phil Fulmer was already on the hot seat at Tennessee.  It took less than two months for Lane Kiffin to lose his NFL gig and find another one back in the college ranks.  By late November 2008, Kiffin was announced as the new head coach at Tennessee, replacing Fulmer.  Kiffin came in with a bang, hiring the most expensive staff of assistants in NCAA Football history and making the rounds on the recruiting circuit.   In his first few months on the job, Kiffin hauled in the best recruiting class the Vols had seen in years.  He also managed to tick off most every coach in the SEC, either by allegedly undermining the commitments of their recruits, accusing the other coaches of cheating, or simply by loudmouthing and posturing to the press. Kiffin was calculated about putting UT back on the map. 

In his return to Southern Cal, Kiffin brings with him his father, Monte Kiffin, as defensive coordinator and Ed Orgeron as recruiting coordinator and assistant coach.  Additionally, to fill the position of offensive coordinator, Kiffin has lured Norm Chow away from UCLA and back to USC where he was OC of the Trojans from 2001-2004.   Tennessee wide receivers coach Kippy Brown will stay on at Tennessee as interim head coach (and pick up the pieces). 

Curiously, this marks perhaps the first time in College Football history when a head coach has left a job where he was potentially threatened by recruiting scandal and NCAA violations to go to a program that is under even greater NCAA scrutiny.   Other than getting back to California and moving into a bigger program, logic seems to be flying out the window with this move.

This changes the recruiting landscape yet again!  Do the current USC recruits want to stay committed and play for a coach who is such a philosophical departure from Pete Carroll?  Will Tennessee recruits stay on board now that the swagger has been taken away from that program?   Add this development to the other coaching changes that have happened this off-season and you have a lot of recruits wondering what’s going to happen next.

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Carroll Out At USC – Del Rio In?

January 12, 2010

Jack Del Rio (AP Photo)

Pete Carroll made it official on Monday.   He’s headed back to the NFL and a job with the Seattle Seahawks.  Now USC needs a new Head Coach, and quickly. 

The first name that’s popped up is Jacksonville Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio.  It makes a lot of sense.  Del Rio is in hot water at Jacksonville. The Jags have been underperforming and it’s been rumored that Jacksonville owner Wayne Weaver would let Del Rio out of the three years that are left on his five-year contract.  It would be cheaper than firing Del Rio.  Jack Del Rio is also a fit at USC because he’s a Trojan.  Del Rio patrolled the field as a linebacker at USC as a four year starter from 1981 to 1984.   He finished his career at USC as a concensus All-American and co-MVP of the 1985 Rose Bowl.  Del Rio would be warmly welcomed back into the USC fold.

Del Rio is also a fit because his hiring would follow the Pete Carroll mold of tapping an NFL head coach for the USC job.  Unfortunately for all involved, it’s going to be tough living up to the Pete Carroll legacy.   In fact, Carroll would have had a hard time continuing his run of success.

USC is under an NCAA investigation that is due to wrap up in late February.  Regardless of what the end result is, the effects are not going to be positive.  Southern Cal faces the possibility of scholarship reductions, post-season bowl bans or other restrictions.

Recruiting at USC will not be the same.  Pete Carroll had a rhythm down.  He had a solid staff that knew how to recruit the talent hotbeds of the nation.  Carroll had proven himself as a developer of talent.  Del Rio will be riding the coattails of the program until he develops his own reputation as a one man pipeline to the NFL.  Regardless of the staff that Del Rio or any other incoming coach employs, USC will no longer be as dominant in recruiting the top athletes from across the country. 

The other teams in the PAC 10 are catching up.  Oregon has already proven that USC can be beaten with players that aren’t four and five-star across the board.  Several other teams in the conference have jumped up and bitten USC in the past year or two.  Those programs are on the rise.  It’s not going to get easier for USC.

A new era will dawn in Los Angeles.  The Trojans have an uphill battle ahead. The empire will contract.  Emperor Pete has stepped down.  Long live Emperor Jack.  It just won’t be the same.

Change in Visit Schedule and Choices for Lawe

January 11, 2010

Maury Lineman Steve Lawe

It looks like Maury (Norfolk) High School’s Steve Lawe has decided to stay in-state.   Lawe (OT/DT 6-5 270) had accumulated offers from Memphis, UVA, Norfolk State and Virginia Union.  UVA had come on as of late since the hiring of Head Coach Mike London.  London is from the 757 originally and recruited the area while previously at Virginia and during his two year head coaching stint at Richmond.  Coach London is very familiar with the talent level in the area. 

Steve Lawe had talked in December about his options at Memphis and Virginia.  Now another school has entered the picture: hometown upstart Old Dominion.  Here’s the twist… Lawe was targeted by Old Dominion Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator Chip West.  Little more than a week ago, West was hired away from ODU by Mike London at UVA.  Now, Lawe has narrowed down his choices to Virginia and Old Dominion.   It looks as though Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder isn’t going to let Lawe leave town with Chip West very easily.

There’s another change for Steve Lawe: his official visit dates.  Originally, he had planned a trip to Memphis on January 22.  Then Coach London visited Maury High School and Lawe decided to go to Charlottesville on that weekend.  There’s one unresolved issue however.  Lawe has a little more academic work to do, specifically with his SAT score.  The last chance to take the SAT before National Signing Day is January 23.  It would be a little tough to get the test in and visit the Charlottesville campus on the same weekend.  Now Lawe has a new plan.

The Virginia visit will wait.  Old Dominion will get a visit from Steve Lawe this weekend.  It shouldn’t be hard for Steve to get there.  Old Dominion’s campus is less than three miles from Maury and Maury plays their home games on Powhatan Field, adjacent to the ODU campus.  Powhatan is a city football facility that is home to both Maury and Granby High Schools and is on land that was given to the city to build the football stadium for the schools. Lawe could literally walk from Maury’s home field to any ODU classrooms, dorms or S.B. Ballard Stadium, the Monarchs’ on-campus home. 

Lawe’s ODU visit on January 15-17 and his scheduled SAT on January 23 leaves only the weekend of January 29 for him to visit Virginia.  In a way, he was forced to narrow down his list.  That plan also affects Lawe’s teammate, Keenan Lambert.  Lambert holds a Memphis offer currently and was planning to visit Charlottesville with Lawe on the weekend of January 22.  Those plans will obviously change.  Lambert had been invited to visit UVA with Lawe, but without an offer in hand. 

Instead, Lambert will visit Memphis on January 22.  That bodes well for the Tigers.  Lambert is a valuable do-everything player who would offer Memphis many options.  Given his size, at 6-1 185 Lambert is college ready for the positions he played in high school.  Lambert was a team leader for the Commodores and excelled at Quarterback, Wide Receiver, Defensive Back and on special teams.   Given that Memphis has a love for tall receivers, a role as a defensive back seems more likely.  In 2009, Memphis’ senior leaders at WR were 6-4 Duke Calhoun and 6-8 Carlos Singleton.   Lambert’s first opportunity for playing time might be on special teams.  He was key for his high school team as a defender on kickoff and punt  returns, plus Lambert has blocked several field goals over his high school career.

UVA claims a desire for Lambert, but their intentions are a little more cloudy.

ODU Football Nabs Richmond Commit

January 11, 2010

It was bound to happen.  Latrell Scott lost one, Bobby Wilder gained one.  

This past weekend, First Colonial (Virginia Beach) Linebacker Darryl Brown visited Old Dominion.  He liked what he saw.  The 6-0 210 LB has decided to stay close to home.  Brown had originally committed to Mike London and the Richmond Spiders, but the since London left for UVA, Brown had second thoughts.

Brown will bolster the defensive side of the ball at Old Dominion; a self-proclaimed thin spot for Bobby Wilder’s Monarchs.  Brown will likely redshirt his first season at the school since there are already two players coming back who were reserved this past season.  John Drew was a medical redshirt due to a knee injury and J.J. Williams was a JUCO transfer from Kansas who needed to sit out in order to fulfill a residency requirement. 

Brown reportedly chose Old Dominion over several other DI FCS in-state schools: Hampton, Norfolk State and JMU.  Brown’s commitment makes him the 12th player of the new recruiting class.  Several players have committed to transfer in from elsewhere, including West Virginia lineman Dominik “Baby D” Davenport of Phoebus, and two players who are leaving Hofstra since they killed their football program last month.

Phoebus’ Goodwyn May Be Close To A Decision

January 10, 2010

Colby Goodwyn (Photo: Diane Cebula)

The Phoebus Phantoms wrapped up a second consecutive undefeated season and a second consecutive State Championship in December.  The senior class at Phoebus knows a lot about winning.  Last year, Phoebus had a banner year for sending seniors off to college on football scholarships.  At least seven Phantoms went off to big name schools, including two to West Virginia, one to Clemson and one to UVA.   This year’s senior class recruiting has been relatively quiet, but things are bubbling under the surface. 

Quarterback Paul Morant and Wide Reciever Andre Griffin have made their commitments to Old Dominion and Hampton respectively.  There’s still a trio of Phantoms that expect a major college commitment in their future.  Running Back/Linebacker Chaz Robinson, Lineman Micah Blakely and Running Back/Defensive Back Colby Goodwyn have spent a lot of their time looking at colleges; and colleges are looking at them.  Colby Goodwyn may be close to a commitment.

UNC has a number of lines in the water, looking to hook a running back.  There are a number of RBs on Carolina’s board that seem to rank higher than Goodwyn, but in the world of college recruiting it’s hard to tell what a school’s intentions are until they’re announced.  After all, the puzzle pieces have yet to fall in place. 

There’s one line of thought that may have Goodwyn committing to UNC as a defensive back.   At 5-8 190, the Phoebus back may be seen as a bit small for either position.   Ultimately, it will come down to positional need.   Woodside’s skilled QB/DB Aaron Evans has already seen how positional needs come into play.  Evans committed to play defensive back at Old Dominion because Old Dominion’s staff felt that Evans was too small for the QB position at the college level.  His skills as a QB will serve him well.  Perhaps one day Evans can look forward to marshalling ODU’s defense.   Goodwyn might find himself a similar fit at Old Dominion.

Old Dominion and North Carolina are both after Goodwyn.   Does he stay home or does he go down the road to Chapel Hill?  Could another school come into play?  We’ll know more very soon.

AFCA Convention Starts Today

January 10, 2010

It’s a swap meet, a job fair and a giant brainstorming session all rolled into one.  The members of AFCA, the American Football Coaches Association, descend on Orlando over the next few days and get together to discuss everything football.   They’re already underway this morning and the sessions won’t wrap up until Noon on Wednesday.   The highlight of the convention will be Tuesday night where the AFCA will honor their Coach of the Year.   Across the days, coaches and other industry professionals will get together for discussions on Xs and Os, defensive and offensive strategies, position specific tactics, new products and even social media forums.  More than ever, coaches need to know about Facebook, Twitter and other social media.  Representatives from the NCAA will be on hand for discussions on recruiting. 

There are lots of areas of impact.   Since there’s been a lot of turnover in the coaching ranks this off-season, you can expect a lot of handshakes and business cards to be traded.  There are numerous assistant coaches out there looking for jobs.  We’ve seen it at UVA, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Kansas, Memphis, Marshall, Richmond and other schools since the end of the football season.  The old head coach goes and the old staff is mostly out of a job.   In the case of Richmond, a part of the staff followed Mike London to UVA.  Latrell Scott has some positions to fill.  Change is constant in the coaching field and plenty of coaches will be moving to new programs this off-season.

Expect some news to come out of the convention over the next few days and over the next couple of weeks.  With new head coaches filling out their staffs and all programs filling out their recruiting classes, it’s going to be a busy month.

Top RB Seastrunk Has A New School Under Consideration

January 9, 2010

Lache Seastrunk (Photo: Temple High School)

Lache Seastrunk has spent months whittling down his list of schools under consideration.  As perhaps the top running back in the 2010 class, the 5-11 190 pound back from Temple, Texas has had his choices laid out for him for quite a while.   All of the biggest schools want him to anchor their recruiting class: Florida, Miami, Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma, and the list goes on.  Seastrunk narrowed his list recently.  He is now down to LSU, Auburn, USC, Oregon and Memphis. 

Stop.  LSU, Auburn, USC, Oregon… and Memphis?  You read it correctly. 

For those who haven’t followed college football closely, especially for those that don’t follow coaching changes closely, there’s been a development in Conference USA.  Larry Porter left LSU about six weeks ago and came home to become head coach at Memphis.   For the average college football fan, that doesn’t seem like anything important, at least from a national perspective.  Looking deeper, you’ll see that Porter was a running back at Memphis from 1990 to 1993.  It’s a homecoming for him.  For the University of Memphis football program, it’s all a start of something bigger.  Years ago, Porter left the safety of home in order to become a better football coach.  He coached under Les Miles at Oklahoma State.  He moved on to LSU and continued to grow under Coach Miles.  At LSU, he added chief recruiter to his duties as running backs coach and was awarded National Recruiter of the Year honors in 2007 and 2009. 

It’s one thing to recruit successfully at a BCS school, but how will Porter elevate Memphis?  Only two words are needed for illustration.  Lache.  Seastrunk.  Yes, that name has the potential to change the fortunes of a program.  Perhaps that change is already occuring.  Porter was the coach that recruited Seastrunk to LSU.  They have a relationship.  Now Seastrunk has narrowed his list.  Florida, Miami, UNC, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and others have come off.  Memphis has come on.   It’s better to come on late than never. 

For Memphis, it would be far better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

His consideration of Memphis doesn’t mean that Seastrunk is a Memphis lock.  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  The relationship is there however and the relationship is no longer as strong at LSU.  Pete Carroll is likely to be gone from USC.  That potentially strikes two schools from his list.   Would it be farfetched to think that Seastrunk’s recruitment is coming down to Auburn, Oregon and Memphis?

Coach Larry Porter (Photo: GoTigersGo.com)

Even if Seastrunk doesn’t veer off of the BCS course and commit to Memphis, the benefit of such notoriety may have already been gained by the Tigers.  Consideration from a top back like Seastrunk goes a long way toward validating the school and validating the efforts of a coach like Larry Porter.  If Seastrunk were to commit to Memphis, that would tip the balance for Memphis’ recruiting.   Porter is already in hot pursuit of a number of blue chip recruits that were unobtainable for the previous coaching staff.  Memphis University School Quarterback Barry Brunetti is one of the top class of 2010 QBs in the nation, yet he barely considered playing for the home school and instead committed to West Virginia months ago.  Brunetti has already been approached by Coach Porter and has been asked to reconsider.  Getting a running back of the quality of Seastrunk would make it more difficult for Brunetti to say no to the Tigers.   Memphis already has four-star rated wide receiver Sean Farr committed for the 2010 class.   Adding Seastrunk as another scoring threat would have to make Brunetti think again.   Any combination of those three players when added to the current team would give Memphis the potential to leap ahead in Conference USA.

Schools like Memphis need breaks in order to close the gap between themselves and the BCS schools.  A little uncertainty with other programs and some tenacious recruiting by Coach Larry Porter may be just what the doctor ordered for Memphis Tiger Football.