Monte Kiffin isn’t going anywhere.
And the first-year Tennessee defensive coordinator clearly isn’t a fan of anybody suggesting otherwise.
Wherever the rumors Kiffin might retire or return to the NFL might have started, he made crystal clear after practice Thursday where they should end.
“Can you believe that somebody out there — and it’s been a couple and I’m not going to say who — but they said they think Monte Kiffin is going to retire so you may not want to go there and play for him because he probably won’t be there,” said Kiffin, who left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to join his son Lane Kiffin at UT. “I want to tell you this right now — I ain’t retiring, OK? I’m not going back to the NFL.
“I didn’t coach in the NFL 25 years to come to Tennessee and get experience to go back to the NFL. I’m not here because of my kid and grandkids — that may be a little bit of the reason — but I’m going to tell you right here, I’m not going. I’m going to stay right here, I love it here and I’m going to coach here as long as I can coach.”
Kiffin is obviously still doing it at a high level, and even if his defense hadn’t gone two games without allowing a touchdown he’d be welcome to stay as long as he wanted.
There’s little doubt now that will be for more than this season, and he rattled off the reasons why.
“I just love coaching,” Kiffin said. “I’m just telling you, I keep saying it, there’s nothing like coaching at the University of Tennessee. If I’m a player — and I went to Nebraska so I’ve got to be careful since I was born and raised there — but I would have a hard time not going to Tennessee if I came here and watched a football game here and saw the Vol Walk.
“We had a Husker Walk, but it was nothing like a Vol Walk. It was walking from the dorm to the game and that was about it with you and your buddy. This Vol Walk and the fans and 107,000 people and just the atmosphere, it’s unbelievable. I’m just telling you, I get fired (up) there.”
The rumors he might take a walk away from the Vols also got him fired up, though it’s not like Kiffin needs any extra motivation for Saturday’s game against South Carolina.
The Gamecocks have a multi-purpose weapon at quarterback, a coach who isn’t afraid to attack downfield and a talented receiver to create mismatches on the perimeter — the third one in as many weeks with whom the Vols have had to deal. Kiffin hasn’t had problems with the last two, and he’s not going to let any retirement talk distract him from doing it again or let it slow his recruiting.
“Remember the story when I first got here?” Kiffin said. “Somebody said … ‘We went through your bio and it said you were 68 years old. Can you communicate with these young kids.’ I said, ‘Let me tell you something right now. I’m 68 going on 40, there are some people that are 68 going on 80.’
“That ain’t me now. Don’t worry about me communicating. I love it.”
Obviously it’s not a problem for him. A miscommunication with Kiffin on Thursday was impossible.
Change Of Schedule: The start of the week was different, but by the end nothing had changed for the Vols.
For the first time this season Lane Kiffin opened the week with a Sunday practice, but it was business as usual for Thursday’s light practice and the UT coach didn’t notice any kind of problems dealing with the change.
“I don’t think it really has anything to do with Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday practices,” Lane Kiffin said. “That’s just changing Sunday and Monday. I thought we had a very good week for the most part. I thought today was OK. I thought Tuesday and Wednesday were very good.
“We still have a lot of work to do and a lot of cleanup to do. It’s a very complicated team we’re playing.”
No Changing Of Guard: Healthy or not, Vladimir Richard might have a hard time reclaiming his position. The senior left guard will be a game-time decision, but UT has been operating just fine with Cory Sullins in the lineup without him.
“Vlad continues to improve, continues to look better and that will be a game-time decision with what we do there,” Lane Kiffin said. “Sullins has played extremely well in his absence, so whoever plays we have confidence both of them would do a good job.”
Bumps And Bruises: The Vols didn’t rule anybody out for the weekend. But they don’t have an exact feel for how much any injured players could contribute.
Defensive end Chris Walker (back), linebacker Greg King and tight end Luke Stocker (back) are all expected to be on the field, but UT is reserving judgment on them and kicker Daniel Lincoln (quad) until Saturday.
“Pretty healthy for the most part,” Lane Kiffin said. “Greg King is moving around, expect him to play. Chris Walker moved around, he’ll be a game-time decision. Other than that, Luke Stocker did some more stuff today, so I would anticipate everybody being a game-time decision or playing.”