You have to give Lane Kiffin this much: people don't waste much time forming opinions about him. After a brief phase of uncertainty, we fans seem to be downright giddy about him. Likewise, each recruit he visits is surprisingly impressed with him and his staff. And not to be outdone, the current players have their views on the new wunderkind as well.
Brothers in Arms
To spoil the ending, silence is golden. Since arriving on the scene, Lane Kiffin has turned everything upside-down on the players. Gone are the days where seniority mattered; now, no player has a starting job. (Not even Eric Berry.) The rules of the weight room have changed. Lane has also been known to attend 5:30 AM workouts to check up on the progress of the players - in January. He has also checked in on classes - unannounced - to see if the players were actually there. (Side note: what do you think would have happened if Berry had decided to skip his 8AM that day?)
Yet there haven't been much in the way of grumblings. I hadn't heard anything about the early practices until Kiffin mentioned them in an interview (and that as a side comment to help explain a different point). The rules are completely different from the "family" that they had grown into during the Fulmer era, yet it hasn't caused mass rioting. At least not on any scale that's made the news.
The bad is epitomized quickly, and in the exception to the general rule seen in Brothers in Arms. As we already know, E.J. Abrams-Ward and Ramone Johnson are gone from the team - early departures who apparently were not seen as the compete-in-everything-including-academics-and-offseason-workouts types that Kiffin wants. The details haven't been released; really, we don't need to know the details, but the fact stands that whatever the threshold is for success as a UT football player under Kiffin, not every incumbent automatically qualifies.
Kiffin, in an interview earlier this month, mentioned that he doesn't believe in dismissing a couple of players "to set examples", and I am willing to believe him on that point. First, it's a horrid policy, as it risks making unwarranted dismissals and creates a very negative atmosphere. Second, that's a practice that has never been used by any of his mentors - from his own dad through Pete Carroll. If Kiffin were one to make such moves, it would have been from a personality flaw, and I don't think Hamilton would have taken such a gamble on a 34-year old with temper issues.
But with any coaching change, there is a risk of washout in the transition. Even in a switch as mild as the expected Bowden-Fisher hand-me-down, every new head coach will have a different approach. What was once the norm might not exist, and you don't always know how people will respond. Will we see more dismissals between now and the start of the season? Quite likely, actually. There's a lot of time between now and the next season which means there'll be a lot of time for second-guessing and frustration to take their toll.
Then again, there's a lot of time for the new football family to grow and develop. Of all the effects Lane Kiffin has had, this is the one we'll have to wait to see. Will the players "buy in" quickly, or will there be extended growing pains? We just don't know.
So we wait. Fortunately, the wait isn't a pure vacuum. We have National Signing Day coming up next Tuesday. We have the Orange and White game coming up (I'll be there, $5 in hand!). Prior to the O&W, the spring scrimmages should be loaded with news as every beat sports reporter is going to be prowling for good material. And with a staff as colorful in character as this staff, you can be assured that quotable material is right around the corner.