Monte Kiffin schemes to slow down Florida offense
Word has it that defensive guru Monte Kiffin is spending a few days in Tampa where he has visited with old friends and compared notes with members of the Bucs coaching staff. . . .
In particular, Kiffin continues to explore ways to counter some of the unique offenses Tennessee's Vols will face this season. Foremost among them is Florida's lethal spread, with Tim Tebow pulling the trigger.
Those who know Kiffin say he has spent considerable time analyzing ways to deal with the divide-and-conquer formation as well as the Gators' across-the-board speed. At UT, it's Job 1.
For all he has accomplished over the past 26 years in the NFL, this is a new test for Kiffin. Just because he developed the Tampa-2 scheme that is all the rage in pro football, that doesn't mean he has an answer for all the questions Florida's offense poses.
Consider this, then, the education of Monte Kiffin. By following his son, Lane, to Tennessee, he has gone to college to get his doctorate in defense.
And he appears to enjoy the challenge. There's something to be said for old coaching dogs and new tricks.
The NFL is a one-size-fits-all league. Everybody uses the same basic offensive scheme, albeit with a few variations here and there. Occasionally, somebody will come up with something new under the sun — Miami's Wildcat formation was all the rage last season — but it doesn't take long for the rest of the league to catch on.
College football is different. Florida runs the spread. Georgia uses a pro set. Vanderbilt runs some option. As a defensive coordinator, Kiffin must adjust from one week to the next. [Editor's note: Exactly!]
Like he says: "I don't think you can blink or show weakness."
The toughest thing for the 69-year-old Kiffin is to adjust his teaching style to a different classroom. In the NFL, he had unlimited access to players. He could keep them in meetings as long as he wanted. Practices were as long or as short as necessary. It's a full-time job for player and coach alike.
The college game is different. Hands-on time with players is limited. You have a 20-hour work week. And believe it or not, players actually go to class.
"You don't have as much time to work with the kids," Kiffin said.
Too, there is a disparity of talent. The NFL salary cap can level the field. In college ball, the rich get richer via superior recruiting. . . .
Thus, all the coaching expertise in the world can carry you only so far. Just because Kiffin can scheme up a way to get an outside linebacker a free shot at Tebow, that doesn't mean Tebow is going down.
In short, if your X's aren't as big and athletic as the other team's O's, you're in for a long afternoon.
This is also why, for all of Lane's insanity, Monte Kiffin remains a coaches' coach, a favorite among the cognoscenti. He was already a defensive god -- Pete Carroll said he visited him every year and that Kiffin taught him all he knew, and even high school coaches said much the same thing. He just exuded a love for football and an incredible knowledge of it.
Yet here has taken a complete switch by going to the college game, and has had to give himself a crash course in what other teams do. (I would recommend that he compare notes with people other than just the Bucs, but he'll figure it out.) Will his defense work in the SEC? Well there's lots of questions, talent foremost among them. But the point is he's eating it up. He loves the challenge. And that is fun to see.