KNOXVILLE — In his introductory news conference Monday, new Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin vowed to recruit aggressively at a national level.
“There will not be anywhere that we don’t go, anywhere that we’re not supposed to go,” said Kiffin, 33, who helped bring in the top-rated recruiting classes in the nation as offensive and recruiting coordinator at Southern California in 2005 and ’06. “We will go everywhere to find the best players in the United States.
“We’ve got to get them to come to the University of Tennessee so we can do this thing and so we can make a run for a long, long time.”
At the same time, Kiffin said he isn’t overlooking in-state talent.
“We have got to put a fence around the state of Tennessee,” said Kiffin, who mentioned that he was flying later in the day “to Memphis to see a No. 1 recruit” — a reference likely to Marlon Brown of Harding Academy, who is ranked as the nation’s No. 2 receiver by Rivals.com.
“We have got to make it so there is no reason a player from Tennessee should ever leave this state and go anywhere else,” Kiffin said. “They need to be here playing for us, winning championships at the University of Tennessee. That will be our No. 1 goal in our recruiting, as well as going nationally.”
Kiffin first must try to salvage a recruiting class that took a serious hit following the announcement that Phillip Fulmer was out after the 2008 season. Several marquee recruits decommitted, including running back Jarvis Giles of Tampa, Fla.
Sunday night, Kiffin began contacting recruits, including David Lipscomb High School senior Zach Rogers. The brother of UT receiver Austin Rogers then started helping in the process.
“I’ve talked to several guys here today trying to keep the best in-state players at home,” the younger Rogers said Monday. “We need all those guys at Tennessee. I took a step back after Coach Fulmer was fired because my family and I have been very close to him. But I like the Lane Kiffin hire and I believe we can put together a tremendous recruiting class.”
Several Chattanooga-area players are now eagerly waiting for similar calls from Kiffin.
“No matter who was the coach, Tennessee is where I wanted to go,” said Rhea County offensive lineman Kevin Revis, who had already announced and reconfirmed his Vols commitment. “I liked Coach Fulmer, but I like everything I’ve heard so far about Coach Kiffin. I’m anxious to see what he has to say when he contacts me.”
David Jones, South Pittsburg running back who is being recruited by Tennessee, said the coaching change hasn’t altered his interest in UT.
“To be honest, the change doesn’t make me feel any different at Tennessee,” Jones said. “I haven’t changed my opinion at all, and I still like Tennessee. I can’t wait until Coach Kiffin contacts me in the next few weeks so I can get to know him and the new staff and see what they’re all about.”
Ooltewah junior defensive end Jacques Smith, one of the top-rated prospects in the South, visited the University of Georgia last weekend and met with coach Mark Richt, who invited him into the locker room after the game.
“Coach Richt is amazing, but my heart is still at Tennessee,” said Smith, who Monday became a Tennessee Mr. Football winner. “I know Coach Kiffin’s dad (Monte) is a great defensive mind. I’m excited and nervous at the same time with a new staff there, but I’m curious to meet with the new coaches.”
Assistant Sports Editor Stephen Hargis contributed to this report.