Let me first say that I am quite pleased with the job that Kiffin has done in his first year, despite the ups and downs, and that we have every reason to believe that we can win a National Championship with this guy. He has boosted recruiting, and the play on the field, and he has repeatedly shown he can develop players. Heres what I took from this season:
The Facts. What We Know For Certain
- Lane Kiffin has taken a 5-7 team that finished 5th in the East and turned them into a 7-5 team that finished 2nd in the East
- Lane Kiffin proved that he can develop players remarkably so that they may fit his style of play. For example, Jonathon Crompton completed 51% of his passes for 800 yds, 4 TD and 5 picks in 2008. IN 2009 Crompton completed 58% of his passes for 2600 yds, 27 tds and 13 picks. Same goes for Montario Hardesty and Quentin Hancock among many others)
- Lane Kiffins first squad beat Georgia 45-19 (and the game wasnt even that close) and he beat South Carolina 31-13, in addition to taking care of business against schools of lesser talent (see UK and Vandy).
- If Daniel Lincoln had made that 45 yarder against the tide, we would have beaten the AP's number 1 team in the country. That aint Lane's fault Lincoln sucks.
- The defense managed to play well throughout the season, desite losing three middle linebackers.
- Lane Kiffin can develop young talent (see Janzen Jackson and Marsalis Teague)
- Lane Kiffin means what he says (see Nu'keese Richardson and Mike Edwards)
- The Vols were in it in every single game they played, including the ole miss and virginia tech games (Vols trailed 21-17 early in the fourth qtr against ole miss, and trailed 24-14 late in the V-Tech game before Denarius Moore committed THE DROP that killed everyones spirits.
The Future. What lies ahead.
The vols are coming off a season in which they had a winning record and finished 2nd in the East. They play a brutal schedule from top to bottom and lose several key players. Yet, I feel very opimistic.
I am very much in favor of playing a highly ranked and respected oregon squad the week before florida. It is a wonderous situation for us; if we lose, it is because we are supposed to. Now should we win, we will be featured on the cover of sports illustrated. It will also help us get ready for florida since Oregon runs a very similar offense; this game will also give lane a good indication of what needs to change in order for us to beat UF. A good opportunity so it seems.
As for the team itself, the difference between being a great team and being a good team is extremely thin. Its making that FG against Alabama, and punching the ball in from two yards out (Hardesty vs UCLA). Overall, I'd say that we were a decently good team this year, and we have every opportunity to improve next year. If we can get the o-line figured out, if stephens can replace crompton well, if everybody returning gets bigger and stronger and more playbook-savvy during the offseason, and if we get just the smallest bit of luck for the 1st time since 2007....then I'd say we have a shot to win the SEC East next year. And maybe, just maybe, something more.