One thing that we know Kiffin and his staff have been selling to recruits is their ability to put kids in the NFL. Part of that sales pitch is referencing players that were drafted highly after playing in their system, specifically when it comes to Quarterbacks; Carson Palmer (1st Overall), Matt Leinart (10th Overall) , and Mark Sanchez (5th Overall) at USC and OC Jim Chaney has Drew Brees (2nd Round) to lean on from his time at Purdue.
As I look at what's been happening around this recruiting season with regards to Quarterback prospects, I have to wonder if Kiffin is shying away from players that may be solid college QB’s but might not be the best pro prospects, and if that is a good approach to take.
I started thinking about this when Kiffin said thanks but no thanks to Tahj Boyd, claiming he wouldn’t fit into Kiffin’s pro style system. However, I seem to remember during Boyd’s initial commitment to Tennessee that he the reason he backed off of his original West Virginia commitment and looked to Tennessee was because of their pro style attack, specifically saying that his real strength was his ability to drop back and throw rather than being the zone read spread and shred QB that he was pegged as early on. Maybe Kiffin didn’t see the drop back passer he was looking for in Boyd, but based on what I read and heard about his performance at various camps and All American games, the kid can play. However some of his measurable features specifically his height 6’1 lead conventional minds to believe he won’t be a big time pro prospect.
Another case is Barry Brunetti, although he reportedly has an offer in the mail, it seemed the staff was a little slow in opening the door of scholarship to the Memphis signal caller. Barry plays also in a spread offense in high school and is only 6’1. Clearly however they did eventually see enough in Brunetti to offer him a scholarship.
Maybe it’s that Kiffin is looking for a guy who can hit the ground running with his system and some of these spread guys will take a little more seasoning. But I can’t help but wonder if coach is dead set on getting a guy who is going to be a big name on draft day and help cement his reputation as a coach who puts kids in the league. With the fact that the 2010 class has only 4 Quarterback’s in the rivals 100 and none of them crack the top 50, you have to wonder if Lane Kiffin’s dream quarterback is even out there this year. I think passing on Boyd may have put him in a tougher position than he anticipated (all due respect to Bryce Petty).
Ultimately the Quarterback(s) that end up signing are going to be crucial to Kiffin’s success at Tennessee. He knows this, the staff knows this. Which is why it’s understandable that they’re being so selective and careful in their evaluations, but so far it seems like the search isn’t quite what Kiffin had in mind. And, with Phillip Sims, Jake Heaps, Blake Bell, and now Nick Montana already off the table, Kiffin better have something up his sleeve.