Tracking through the "Around SB Nation" links that you see at the bottom of every post, I came across an interesting spin job by Year2 on Team Speed Kills about an interview that Lane Kiffin gave to the Palm Beach Post in South Florida. I found this particularly interesting because Lane Kiffin was the one who called down to the PBP to request the interview (instead of the other way around). The PBP gladly obliged and, after settling on the ground rules of topics for discussion, gave a rather good, probing interview of Kiffin. It's nearly a week old, but I enjoyed it enough to write on it.
First and foremost, major props to the interviewer for a very level and thorough interview. This is noteworthy of a guy whose blog banner is this:
(Image includes a link if you're interested.)
I have to reiterate that the interview does not contain any trap questions and does not handle Kiffin dismissively; it's not something you'd expect from an admittedly rival-biased journoblog interview that is picked up by another Gators site, then winds its way onto SBN through the aforementioned Gatorfan Year2.
And with that out of the way, onto a few interesting points from the interview. (You'll have to go to the source for the full thing - a worthwhile read - but the points that most stood out to me are included after the jump.)
Why Call For Interviews?
When asked why Kiffin called the PBP - something they clearly were not expecting - he gave a very reasonable response:
I just thought I hadn’t been contacted or done any interviews in South Florida. It’s an area we’re very excited about recruiting, obviously has a number of great players every year. We just wanted to be able to talk to someone down there and get us out and about.
In context, Kiffin has been very active on the media circuit. He's made several appearances/interviews with national sources like ESPN and Fox, and he's been all over the map around Knoxville. In contrast, Fulmer was far more closed to the media. I would suppose that out-of-state local beats were simply not used to talking to Tennessee for no apparent reason. If Kiffin wants to get in the public eye in places like South Florida, he's going to have to force his way into it until they pick up on him. There's no "evil genius" or "egotistical buffoon" about this move - it's the only one he has available.
When asked about visiting Pahokee since the incident:
We can’t. It was the day after Signing Day, so recruiting is in a dead period and does not open back up again until late April.
Two birds in one stone. First, if anybody tries to make a deal about not visiting, it's helpful to know that the option wasn't ever there. Second, take a look at the time when the dead period opens up - late April. When does spring practice end? Late April, with the Orange and White game. I can't imagine that it's merely coincidence that the coaches' schedules magically clear up just as the recruiting doors swing open again.
When asked about toning down the brashness in the media:
Similarly, when asked about not saying as much:
No. If anything, exactly the opposite.
So the honeymoon's still on between Kiffin and the high-ups. That's good for all of us; we can expect more fun and frolic during the offseason. It'll be a lot easier to write about the team during the summer this way, too.
When asked about recruiting Bryce Brown:
Well we had been kind of recruiting him through that, just because he hadn’t signed anywhere yet. When that information came out we kind of had already known that at that point. It was a long process to get him, one I was really excited about our assistant coaches and how well they did being able to land him.
(Again, emphasis mine.)
I find the word choice interesting. He was referring mostly to the fact that Brown was available after National Signing Day, so pursuing a kid who hadn't signed - as opposed to one who hadn't committed - makes sense. Given, though, that he went after Nu'Keese and others who had committed to different programs, I do think recruiting is going to be fun to follow.
One point of observation about recruiting: many of the high school kids who commit early are simply placing an offer in their back pocket as a form of insurance. They're still willing to look around and entertain other possibilities, but they want to be sure that they have somewhere to go. (Often, they'll simply say they're "having fun and taking advantage" of the free visits to other schools.) Like it or not, a commitment is clearly not a commitment anymore.
When asked about making Tennessee more like USC:
I’ve never once thought about trying to make this the USC of the SEC. I have philosophies about how we believe we do things that really have no relevance to trying to bring USC here or anything like that. We do want our players to play confident and have confidence in themselves and that’s our job to motivate them and get them to that point by Saturdays.
The first sentence is interesting. "The USC of the East", or "the USC of the SEC" are phrases that are sometimes used in the media as shorthand to describe the new hopes of the UT program. It's a natural leap, given the success of USC and the training that Kiffin had under Carroll. But if Tennessee is ever going to be the king of the hill, they'll have to find a spot other than inside USC's shadow at some point. Is this the beginning of the attempt to shift the rhetoric?
It's really a great interview and worth reading in its entirety. Much of what is said is that same that we're used to reading, but I've left a few gems behind; Ben Volin did his homework on it and deserves a click, so they're in there for you. And if you have a few minutes, scan through the spin jobs in the trail of links that brought me to the post in the first place. We could spin it up ourselves, but there's no real point.
If you don't have the time to read the trackbacks, then you can borrow Year2's philosophy and "...just imagine the
sunniest dreariest interpretation for the Tennessee program and that's what Kiffin they said." (Revision mine.)