Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin, left, said he will help promote assistants like running backs coach Eddie Gran, who has interviewed for the vacant Memphis job.
Don't expect Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin to be surprised if one of his assistants leaves for another job. Such defections are almost expected.
"Anytime you shoot high, that's going to happen," Kiffin said. "If you shoot high and you get great coaches and recruiters like this, you're going to eventually lose them.
"If we're losing guys, it's a good thing, because usually if you're losing guys that means you're successful and winning a bunch of games."
The Vols (5-5, 2-4 in the SEC) haven't won a bunch of games yet but competitive games against the league's elite - Alabama and Florida - and some strong recruiting might have some headhunters thinking about UT's coaches when they look to fill vacant coaching positions.
Running backs coach Eddie Gran is the first to have such interest go public. Gran, who also coaches UT's special teams and is a key recruiter, interviewed with Memphis on Sunday, according to a source close to hiring process.
It's unclear how strong a candidate Gran is to replace Tommy West, who was fired last week during his ninth season as the Tigers' coach.
LSU assistant head coach Larry Porter, Middle Tennessee head coach Rick Stockstill, North Alabama head coach Terry Bowden, Oklahoma State co-offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer and Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster are leading candidates to replace West, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Former UT coach Trooper Taylor, assistant head coach at Auburn, also might interview.
Gran's biggest impact on UT's program has been felt in recruiting. The 44-year-old is considered one of the country's best in South Florida. In fewer than three weeks on UT's staff, Gran convinced highly touted athlete Nu'Keese Richardson to sign in February 2009.
Richardson was dismissed from UT on Monday after being charged with attempted armed robbery last week. However, his signing was considered a huge recruiting coup.
Richardson, who is from Pahokee (Fla.) High School, was considered one of the top prospects in the nation and had been committed to Florida for months.
The Vols have five commitments for the 2010 class from South Florida: offensive lineman Jose Jose, linebacker Ralph Williams, kicker Michael Palardy and athletes Ted Meline and Delvin Jones.
On the field, Gran's running backs have been highly productive, but his special teams have repeatedly struggled.
Kiffin declined to talk specifically about any coachwho may be a candidate for another school, but said he wouldn't begrudge a coach for leaving UT after one season.
He even said he would help promote an assistant for another job. He said he learned that from his former boss, Southern California coach Pete Carroll, who has been a mentor for two of college football's youngest head coaches: Kiffin, 34, and Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, 35.
"That's an example of Pete promoting his guys," Kiffin said. "A lot of head coaches don't promote their guys, don't want to help their guys because they're trying to keep them because they're selfish about it.
"I think that when coaches do a great job for you and work their tail off for you and are here every morning (and) every night (and work) forever on the road (recruiting), you owe it to them to help them to get promotions. I would always help our guys."
Kiffin's guys may prove to be more apt to leave than the coaches who worked under former UT coach Phillip Fulmer. Many coaches under Fulmer were longtime assistants with strong ties to UT. That led to relatively little turnover in Fulmer's 17-year tenure.
Most of Kiffin's staff has far less connection to him or UT. Dubbed an all-star staff by some, UT's coaches have plenty of ties elsewhere.
Gran coached for Tommy Tuberville for most of his career, meaning Gran could rejoin Tuberville if he returns to coaching. Linebackers coach Lance Thompson is a highly regarded coach and recruiter that would be a valuable addition for any school.
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has ties to the Big Ten and the NFL and a long, valuable history of coaching successful quarterbacks, such as Purdue's Drew Brees and Kyle Orton.
UT's other, younger coaches could be interested in adding more responsibilities and/or titles to their resumes.
It seems unlikely that defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin would leave for another school after leaving the NFL in December to coach for his son. The elder Kiffin, 69, has steadfastly denied he will retire soon.
Assistant head coach Ed Orgeron, who coaches UT's defensive linemen and is recruiting coordinator, is one of the most intriguing coaches to watch as more jobs come open. Orgeron has expressed interest in becoming a head coach again after being fired by Ole Miss in 2008 after three seasons.
"With anything, your first head job, you always make mistakes," Kiffin said. "I know that he knows his mistakes but he can coach ball, he can recruit great players and I just think he would hire different assistants."
One of those assistants could be UT receivers coach Frank Wilson, who Orgeron has known for years. They are both from Louisiana and coached together at Ole Miss.
Kiffin called Orgeron an incredible head coaching candidate.
"Here's a guy that's proven again that he can go anywhere and get players," Kiffin said. "Look at the example of him coming here. He was here for such a short time and we signed a top-10 class (in February), the No. 1 player in the country (tailback Bryce Brown) and look what's going on this year."
The Vols rank sixth in the nation in recruiting for the 2010 class, according to Scout and Rivals.
"And think about a lot of the kids we've been getting this year when we were 2-3 or we were 4-4," Kiffin said. "It's easy to recruit when you're 8-0 or 9-0. He's done a phenomenal job."
Kiffin also pointed to last week's opponent, Ole Miss, as proof that Orgeron can quickly upgrade a team's talent. Twenty of Ole Miss' 22 starters are juniors or seniors recruited by Orgeron. The Rebels beat the Vols 42-17 on Saturday.
"Look at the defensive linemen they have. Look at the tailback. Look at the quarterback," Kiffin said. "Those are all guys he brought in there."