Lane Kiffin is an interesting figure in Tennessee football history. He was in Knoxville for only a brief period of time, but he left an indelible mark on the Vols in that short time. Kiffin was Tennessee’s head football coach for one season in 2009 and then bolted for USC after the one year.
At the time, and for many years after, Kiffin was a Vol villain. That only escalated when he took a job as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.
But now he’s the head coach at Florida Atlantic, and some Vol fans have softened on their hatred of him. He was even a fan favorite by many to replace Butch Jones as the Vols’ head coach when Tennessee was looking for a head coach late last year.
Kiffin himself doesn’t seem to hold much ill will towards Tennessee. In interviews over the past year, Kiffin has always spoken highly of the Vols and fondly of his brief time as head coach. He definitely enjoys interacting with the Vol fan base on Twitter.
In an interview with The Morning Drive on 102.5 The Game in Nashville, Kiffin spoke about FAU, his first season there as head coach, and expectations for his team this spring. But he was also asked about Jeremy Pruitt and Tennessee.
During his time at Alabama from 2014-16, Kiffin worked with Pruitt for a season. Kiffin was the Tide’s offensive coordinator, and Pruitt was Alabama’s defensive coordinator. So Kiffin has experience with Pruitt’s coaching style and knows what type of person Tennessee’s new head coach is.
“Jeremy is going to do a great job there,” Kiffin said during the interview. “I would not be shocked if it’s not going to be just like Georgia. You’re looking at Tennessee back in the top 10 in two years and making a playoff run.”
Kiffin would go on to say that Pruitt is a “phenomenal recruiter” and was “arguably the best defensive coordinator in all of college football” at Alabama. He would also state that Pruitt is “a great teacher” because of his time as a high school coach.
“He was a high school coach. You have to teach guys at that level; you don’t get all five-stars there,” Kiffin stated. “I sat next to him every day in the staff meetings, and he’s extremely intelligent. High school coaches love him, which will go a long ways in recruiting.
“Tennessee’s going to be back really soon.”
The Vols have struggled to get “back” for the last decade. Tennessee won nine games in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016 under Butch Jones, but those seasons were marred by late game collapses and failure to meet expectations. The Vols haven’t won 10 or more games in a season since 2007, and they just went through their worst season in program history last year when they went 4-8 overall and 0-8 in SEC play.
Most believe the climb back up to relevance for Tennessee under Pruitt will be long and arduous. But Lane Kiffin thinks it will be quicker than anticipated.