Job one was recruiting. Job two for Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin begins in a little less than a month when UT returns to the field for spring practice on March 10.
Safe to say, though, he's already setting the tone for a physical spring with UT's offseason conditioning program.
"We took them all the way down to ground level, so far," Kiffin said during an appearance at the Big Orange Tipoff Club's weekly luncheon Wednesday. "Some of them have broke. Some of them haven't been able to take it. But the guys that survive will end up with the great character."
And great confidence.
UT's offense could certainly use a boost in that department after finishing 110th in country in scoring offense (17.3 points per game) and 115th in total offense (268.8 yards per game) last season, when the Vols finished 5-7 overall.
A lot of those struggles had to do with UT's quarterback play.
Kiffin offered a reminder of his own experiences with a pair of quarterbacks at Southern California who had their doubters as well.
"We don't think that way," Kiffin said. "We don't listen to any negativity. We don't listen to anything that will do anything except set a guy's bar extremely high. One of these guys is going to be a great player for us next year."
Kiffin did urge patience as quarterbacks Jonathan Crompton, Nick Stephens and B.J. Coleman begin learning a new offense.
"I think it's similar to when I was hired and I discussed the coaching staff. I told everybody to be patient and we're going to do this thing right, not fast," Kiffin said. "It's the same thing with the quarterbacks. Be patient in this and don't make judgements on these kids. Everybody wants to say, 'Well, they haven't played well before' or 'They can't play' or 'They're not smart enough' or 'They don't have a big enough arm.' Hold on. We haven't coached them for one day in our system. Let's give them a chance, let's see what they do."
That's basically Kiffin's plan for the entire roster.
He hasn't spent a lot of time dissecting film from last season, instead preferring to observe first-hand on the field this spring. On offense, Kiffin said he'll tailor his offense to fit his players' strengths.
"You've always got to play to your players, so it's going to depend on our personnel," he said. "We don't know our personnel yet. ... We're always going to be evolving to make sure that we're putting our players in the best position. We can't force our players to do something they're not good at."
While spring drills will largely be a feeling-out process - albeit a very physical one for players - at least one starting spot is set in stone.
Asked Wednesday about safety Eric Berry, who earned consensus All-America honors last year as a sophomore, Kiffin played to the crowd.
"We've opened up the competition at all the spots. Twenty-one out of 22," Kiffin said. "He's dynamic, and we're going to build our defense around him."
Johnson Named GA: Former defensive back Inky Johnson has been hired as a graduate assistant coach with UT's defense.
"He's impressed myself and my dad (UT defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin) so much by who he is and the way players respond to him," Kiffin said. "We had a million people wanting to come (as a GA). I kept thinking about it as we were interviewing people. The best guy's right here."
Johnson, widely respected by players and staff at UT, suffered a career-ending shoulder injury during in 2006 but has remained with the program since as a volunteer student assistant coach.
Good One, Coach: Men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl, who attended Wednesday's lunch along with women's basketball coach Pat Summitt, delivered the line of the day teasing Kiffin about last week's comments regarding Florida coach Urban Meyer.
"I think everybody's very excited to see what you've got to say next, actually," Pearl joked. "I told him that's how we roll, so he's not surprised at all.
"I was thinking about this the other day. (When) I came in here, I said it's my goal to become the least popular coach in the SEC. I just had no idea I could do it in one year. He had no idea he could do it in one week."
First-Hand Look: Asked about UT's conditioning program, Kiffin invited the UT fan who asked the question to see for himself how new strength and conditioning coach Mark Smith operates.
"Tomorrow you're invited at 5:30 in the morning," Kiffin said, drawing laughter. "I'm serious. You will never have a question about our conditioning by the time it's 6:30."
Quick Hits: Assistant coaches have been making unannounced visits to players' classes this week in an effort to stress academics. ... Kiffin spent nearly 20 minutes after his visit to greet fans, sign autographs and pose for pictures. ... Kiffin plans to visit his family next weekend in California. He was unable to make the trip the last two weekends because UT hosted unsigned recruits in the Class of 2009.
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.