KNOXVILLE — University of Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin said three weeks ago at his introductory news conference that he wanted to build a fence around the Volunteers’ home state.
His batting average has been much higher in Florida, though, albeit with a very small sample size.
Kiffin, who will be joined by his father, the longtime Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator, in the coming weeks, has secured three new public commitments since taking the UT job. Two have been from the Sunshine State.
Staff Photo by Patrick Smith Former Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin speaks to reporters during a news conference Monday at Neyland Stadium. The University of Tennessee introduced Lane Kiffin as Tennessee's new football coach.
Sarasota Booker High School defensive tackle Arthur Jeffery and Tallahassee Leon High wide receiver James Green have pledged to play for the Vols, and both plan to arrive in Knoxville next summer.
The 6-foot-2, 202-pound Green was named by Rivals.com as one of the nation’s top 250 overall senior prospects, and the No. 32 receiver.
“I’ve always liked Tennessee, and I like Coach Kiffin a whole lot, too,” Green said. “Tennessee has put a lot of great wide receivers and tight ends in the (NFL), and Donte Stallworth is the guy I model my game after.”
Green said he watched the UT coaching search “very closely” and was “very shocked ... and excited” when Kiffin called him last week to firm up his offer.
“He asked me if I wanted to be a Vol, and honestly I was,” Green said. “I’m a Vol, and I’m really happy about it. I don’t want to visit anywhere but Knoxville.”
Jeffery, a Tampa-area native, told Rivals.com that Monte Kiffin joining his son at UT clinched his own decision.
“I have always loved the Bucs defense,” Jeffery told the Web site. “I like the way the defensive line plays in that system, and I think that the Bucs defense has been the best the last 10 years or so.”
Jeffery emerged as a college prospect last summer and collected several major offers before tearing his ACL and MCL last October. He told Rivals.com that UT was one of the few schools that stuck with him before and after the situation, which kept the Vols in the hunt for his services during their coaching search.
Sarasota High coach Bob Perkins told USFBullsEYE.com earlier this month that Jeffery was “the best defensive player we played against this season.
“He has the size and speed to control the defensive line and control most offenses,” Perkins said. “You had to account for him, and even if you ran away from him, he ran you down. You don’t see that too often.”
Much of Lane Kiffin’s first three weeks as UT’s coach were clearly spent recruiting, and he readily acknowledged that last week.
Asked how much time he’d spent evaluating his current roster, Kiffin said, “Not that much. That’s not where my time has gone.”
He said this week’s NCAA-mandated recruiting dead period will allow him more time to shore up his coaching staff and spring-practice plan.
“I wasn’t concerned about looking at our current roster and saying, ‘OK, we have three guys that I believe can play at this position, two guys here, so we need to get this many here,’” Kiffin said. “My goal is to go get really good players right now. I’m not really worried about what’s on our roster that has to do with that.
“I’m worried about getting the best players we can get. I’m not setting any limitation on this many linebackers, this many receivers. If we get six great receivers, then great. If there’s only two great ones, then let’s only get two. I’m not really worried about what’s on our roster as far as what we’re bringing in.”
Kiffin said a video breakdown of last season wouldn’t really give him a “true evaluation anyway. Some players will have played better or worse (in) the system that was here than how they’re going to play in ours.”
Quality over quantity
Kiffin said he didn’t yet know how many players he’d be able to sign for the 2009 class, citing “too many variables.”
Fall-semester grades, NFL draft entries, transfers in and out — most college coaches deal with uncertain numbers during the winter holidays.
“There’s a lot of things that go into that with our current roster,” Kiffin said. “We want really good players, so I’m not as concerned that we hit a certain number. I’m concerned about people getting players.
“It doesn’t do any good to hit a number and have a guy sit on your bench for four years. Let’s get the best players we can get.”