An SEC source told me Tuesday afternoon that "Lane Kiffin was moving up the leader board." I appreciated his golfing analogy almost as much as his opinion.
You could extend the analogy by comparing a daily round in a four-day tournament to a week in Tennessee's search for a football coach to replace Phillip Fulmer. Each week, like each round, could give you a different leader.
There's no doubt North Carolina coach Butch Davis was the first-round leader. The same source who informed me of Kiffin's recent ascent told me in mid-October that UT was going after Davis.
Never mind how happy Davis says he is at North Carolina. I don't believe UT would have made him a priority without some encouragement on his end.
A News Sentinel interview with a recruit Monday night is more revealing than anything Davis has said. Running back David Oku, who has committed to UT, told a News Sentinel reporter via text message that Davis was trying to recruit him to North Carolina.
Taking a recruit at his word is only slightly less risky than taking a football coach at his word. And a source said he expects UT will make "another run at Davis." But there's less and less evidence to justify putting him atop the leader board.
At anytime during the last two weeks, you might have seen Texas Tech coach Mike Leach's name or Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly's at the top. This week's leader is Kiffin.
Does that mean he will be the next head coach? No. But he's looking like the favorite.
Another source, who knows Leach, said Monday that he thought it was between Leach and Kiffin going into last weekend. And he thought Leach was hurt by Texas Tech's embarrassing loss to Oklahoma.
The same source told me that Kelly was nothing but a "smokescreen," which begs the question: Why do you need a smokescreen? This is a coaching search, not a sting operation.
Someone else brought up the name of Oregon State coach Mike Riley in conjunction with Leach. His theory: Leach was UT's No. 1 choice; if it couldn't get Leach, it would take Riley.
Riley has a strong, diverse resume. He has been a head coach in the NFL, the CFL, and the dearly departed World League of Professional Football. He has been an offensive coordinator and a defensive coordinator. And twice in the last three years, he has sabotaged Southern California's national championship ventures with upset victories.
However, Riley is known as a "West Coast guy," and his wife has an even stronger preference for living on Pacific Standard Time. Their affinity for the Far West was the biggest factor in Riley's decision to turn down the head-coaching job at Alabama, his alma mater. If Alabama couldn't get him, how could UT?
I'm not sure about Kiffin's geographical preference. I am sure he would prefer coaching somewhere, rather than nowhere. Having been fired as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, he could be the fastest guy on the job.
He has more going for him than that.
Kiffin has head-coaching experience in the NFL, an NFL defensive guru (Monte Kiffin) for a father, and a reputation as a national recruiter - based on his work at USC under Pete Carroll.
If Kiffin is your candidate, you probably have a package deal in mind. If the kid couldn't convince his dad to leave the Tampa Bay Bucs to assist his son, maybe he could at least talk former USC recruiting sidekick, Ed Orgeron, into making a college comeback. Orgeron, whose fanatical recruiting was detailed in the book, "Meat Market," took an assistant coaching job with the New Orleans Saints after being fired as Ole Miss' coach.
Like Leach, who has an off-the-wall personality and an off-the-charts offense, Kiffin isn't a conventional candidate. He's only 33. He has never been a college head coach.
But how do you expect to overtake Urban Meyer at Florida and Nick Saban at Alabama with a conventional coach?
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or email@example.com.