KNOXVILLE -- Said Lane Kiffin on the December afternoon he was introduced as Tennessee's new football coach eight months ago: "Everything's in place. We don't need another building. We don't need another weight room. We've got enough here to win."
Said UT athletic director Mike Hamilton on Tuesday: "Over the past four months (Lane) has started telling us what we need, especially in the weight room. It's nothing we haven't talked about in the past -- we've known there was a need there -- but he is starting to ask for things."
Starting today at the Southeastern Conference football media days, the integrity of the 34-year-old Kiffin's words are sure to be a hot topic of conversation in the usually staid, gentlemanly league.
As has been well-documented the past few months, Kiffin's chief claim to fame before he's head-coached a single college game has been his ability to ignite controversy, sometimes at his own expense.
And before anyone believes many of those could have been accidents, Kiffin told CBSSports.com writer Dennis Dodd, "I'm not going to tell you what to write, but you should make it clear, you know, well, this stuff was on purpose."
So, Boss Gator Urban Meyer, you can pretty much ignore that non-apology apology Kiffin sent your way in February after he falsely accused you of cheating.
Yet Hamilton was quick to defend the most important hire of his career as far less different from his conference brothers than his early work would suggest.
"As I've gotten to know Lane," Hamilton said, "he's really kind of a throwback. He likes to recruit, break down film, scheme the opponent. He's a lot more like the football coaches of the past than you might think."
Kiffin certainly sounded like a throwback coach Tuesday.
Praising his staff's work ethic, "Guys are sleeping in their offices, not taking vacations."
He also noted how he was "very committed to the running game," backing that up with the factoid that the Oakland Raiders were 31st in the NFL in rushing the year before Kiffin became their head coach, but sixth his first season.
Asked about another possible season-long quarterback battle between Jonathan Crompton and Nick Stephens, he said, "I don't believe in rotating quarterbacks. They don't operate well under pressure if they're afraid they're going to get pulled."
Regarding freshman running back Bryce Brown, rated the No. 1 prospect in the country in some services, Kiffin observed: "When you walk by Bryce Brown, he looks like the real deal. He weighs 218 and he looks like he's been in the NFL for a few years. He's got that swagger."
He even praised Florida quarterback Tim Tebow: "I think he'll be a great NFL quarterback. He'll probably win a Super Bowl."
And just to prove he reads at least a few of those "five articles a day about our football team" in the state's newspapers, he wanted to calm any Big Orange Nation concerns that the Vols would wear black jerseys this season.
"If you've watched me the last two years (with the silver and black Oakland Raiders), you probably realize I don't like black," said a briefly grinning Kiffin.
They are all just words today -- the good, the bad and the ugly. No SEC team yet has a loss, but neither does anyone have a win.
Even Hamilton attempted to temper outrageous optimism by reminding folks, "This was a team that finished 5-7 last year. I think they'll show promise. But it's all about recruiting. Like Lane said, does the running back get tackled by the safety after a 10-yard gain or does the safety miss and we score a touchdown? That's a recruiting deal."
Yet the AD also said, "If hard work is any indication, I believe there will be some real joy around Knoxville this fall."
If not, expect Kiffin to convince Volniacs everywhere that purchasing shiny new weights will ensure plenty of wins in 2010.
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...