KNOXVILLE -- Football coaching carousel rumors reached the University of Tennessee campus long before Friday night, when the Volunteers practiced in front of multiple assistants who could leave the program.
Rumors have circled regarding several UT assistants, and multiple sources confirmed that wide receivers coach Frank Wilson and running backs coach Eddie Gran have been targeted by LSU and Florida State.
First-year Vols head coach Lane Kiffin didn't address specifics but said he hoped to retain as many of the nation's highest-paid staff of assistants as possible.
"I think that's going to happen here a lot," Kiffin said of outside interest in his assistants. "We've hired a great staff, and guys are going to come after them. They see what we're doing on the field, and they see what we're doing in recruiting.
"Whenever you're having as much success as we are, they'll come after them, and so we have to do everything in our power to keep them here."
Wilson, a Louisiana native with several personal and professional ties to that state, has reportedly been offered a large raise to come home. But Kiffin is willing to give Wilson and others financial incentives to stay with the Vols, according to several sources associated with the program.
"I'm used to this stuff," junior wide receiver Gerald Jones said of coaching changes. "If (Wilson) does decide to go, I'm happy for him. And if he decides to stay, I'm even more happy.
"This is a business, and my mama told me that before I even got to college. I've always worn that on my heart. No hard feelings to anybody who decides to leave for a better opportunity. We'll just see what happens."
Jones said he would be quick to call the team's underclassmen together and tell them that, should the need arise.
"We've got to help them understand the type of situation it is," Jones said. "Every coach is trying to get to the top, just like we are. We'd just have to move on, and whoever the next guy is -- if there is a next guy -- we'd just have to play hard for him, too."
The Vols are confident they will receive a Chick-fil-A Bowl bid this weekend, and most expect Virginia Tech to be the opponent.
None of that mattered Friday, though, Kiffin said. After several days of rest and final exam studying, Kiffin said this weekend's emphasis is looking inward.
"We didn't talk about that (bowl) stuff," Kiffin said. "We just talked about having a really good practice today, and it was a very physical practice, high-energy practice. And we'll be back out here tomorrow for another one.
"I think a lot of teams would wait another week before they started practicing, but it was just too critical for us to find out more about our team."
UT watched video from the Kentucky game, like it would on a typical postgame Sunday, and Kiffin said the practice had a "two-a-day" feel.
Senior tailback Montario Hardesty (general soreness), senior guard Vladimir Richard (ankle), sophomore cornerback Art Evans (shoulder) and freshman defensive tackle Marlon Walls (knee) stayed on the sideline, but most of the Vols were dressed in helmets, shoulder pads and sweat pants.
"It was fun getting back out there and competing with your teammates," junior strongside linebacker LaMarcus Thompson said. "We've seen what we can do against other teams, but today it was, 'See if you can do it on us.' It was all about bragging rights, you know, offense versus defense.
"There was great energy today, and to see that when there's not really a game going on, that's good for the team."
Kiffin said the No. 3s on the depth chart got more team-period repetitions Friday than they had since preseason camp.
"It was good to see those young guys give us a chance to put an evaluation on them," he said. "Some of the freshmen looked really good today. Some of them were out here really moving around fast."
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