Lane Kiffin knew he was never a candidate for Tennessee’s vacant head coaching job well before Jeremy Pruitt was hired to replace Butch Jones. Kiffin isn’t overly fond of even addressing the possibility of returning to Knoxville, Tenn.
“I’m not really big on questions that don’t matter because they didn’t happen,” said Kiffin, who is the head coach at Florida Atlantic. “When it first opened, the A.D. there, John Currie, talked to Jimmy Sexton and John said he had zero interest in even speaking with me. At that point, I didn’t think about it anymore. There was no point to.”
Currie was eventually replaced as athletic director by Phillip Fulmer, who then hired Pruitt. Of course, Fulmer wasn’t going to consider Kiffin, who replaced Fulmer following the 2008 season.
“You guys have an awesome coach,” Kiffin said during a recent interview on WGOW radio. “Jeremy Pruitt is going to do great things there, already making a national impact in recruiting and arguably the best defensive coordinator in all of college football.”
Kiffin didn’t just endorse the Pruitt hire. Kiffin said he also feels strongly about the coaches Pruitt has surrounded himself with.
“I think he’s put together a great staff,” Kiffin said. “I talk to different people in the SEC and they really feel Tennessee is recruiting at a really high level right now, getting into all the schools back in the winter. He’s going to do great and bring Tennessee back.”
Kiffin knows what it’s like to be in the early stages of rebuilding a Tennessee’s football program. He was trying to do the same at UT in 2009 when the Vols went 7-6.
“We had a great year there,” Kiffin said. “Really should have been better record-wise, kind of screwed up a couple of games there. And we were playing probably, to me, the best SEC year in the history of the SEC as far as the quality of teams and coaches that were in the SEC at that time.”
Kiffin pointed out that the Vols had to face some of the SEC’s all-time most successful coaches in 2009, such as Alabama’s Nick Saban, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, Florida’s Urban Meyer, Georgia’s Mark Richt and LSU’s Les Miles.
“It was really at its height,” Kiffin said of the conference in 2009. “We were able to be very competitive in a lot of those games and almost won that Alabama game. We were recruiting at a high level so it was exciting.”
The Vols lost at Alabama 12-10 after a field goal attempt was blocked in the final seconds. It would have been one of the most surprising upsets in recent Tennessee football history. Apparently, fans agreed that the Vols were on the right track. Several Kiffin supporters demanded he be names Jones’ replacement in emails to Currie via a freedom of information act release.
“That was pretty neat,” Kiffin said. “That made me feel good, that that many people there would be emailing that. It was pretty neat. I guess that old saying, time can heal everything, really works.”
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