KNOXVILLE — Lane Kiffin’s first football coaching staff at the University of Tennessee is nearly in place.
According to multiple sources from UT and other programs, Kiffin has hired former Alabama outside linebackers coach Lance Thompson, former Auburn running backs coach Eddie Gran, former North Dakota State defensive coordinator Willie Mack Garza and recently hired Mississippi State wide receivers coach Frank Wilson.
Attempts to reach Kiffin have been unsuccessful, but it is believed that Thompson will coach linebackers, Gran will coach running backs, Garza will coach the secondary and Wilson will coach receivers.
Garza, who was a defensive back at Texas, was a 1994-96 graduate assistant for the Longhorns before coaching secondaries at Western Michigan (1997-2000), TCU (2001-03) and North Dakota State.
Wilson, who worked for UT defensive line coach Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss and played for him at Nicholls State, accepted a position under Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen on Dec. 30. He was the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Southern Miss last season.
Gran spent the past 15 seasons working for Tommy Tuberville at Ole Miss and Auburn. He had also been Auburn’s special-teams coach in 2000, but his running backs resume is even more impressive. Six of his former tailbacks are in the NFL: Ronnie Brown, Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, Brandon Jacobs, Deuce McAlister, Kenny Irons and Heath Evans.
Gran also has worked with Orgeron. He was a graduate assistant at Miami when Oregon was the Hurricanes’ defensive line coach.
News from the past two days seems to indicate that UT running backs coach Stan Drayton won’t be a part of Kiffin’s staff, though attempts to contact Drayton on Friday afternoon weren’t immediately successful. Drayton has helped Kiffin and other assistants on the recruiting trail for weeks in hopes of keeping his family in Knoxville.
The Times Free Press is attempting to obtain contract information on Kiffin’s hirings through open records requests.
Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said earlier this week that he and Kiffin were “finalizing” the staff and salary information wasn’t available. He has said that he expects the total of assistants’ salaries to increase from last season’s $1.935 million.