It’s almost that time of year when coaching changes in college football run a muck and many opportunities open up for new head coaching candidates at big time college football programs. This time is also an opportunity for veteran savvy and gifted head coaches to get the chance to steer the ship of what most would consider dream destinations. But, what happens when multiple dream locations pop-up at the same time for a qualified and bold candidate? This is the dilemma for the one and only Lane Kiffin.
Kiffin is currently the head coach of Ole Miss which is in the powerhouse conference of the SEC. Most would say Kiffin is in the perfect spot to build a champion, but we must remember that Kiffin is in the SEC West. The western division of the SEC holds a few college football juggernauts we all know; Alabama, LSU, Auburn and now Jimbo Fishers fast rising Texas A&M program.
In a good year for Ole Miss they may finish at number 3 in the west and a lot has to happen for Ole Miss to finish there. As good as Kiffin has been as a coach at his various spots, he hasn’t been able to build a legit college football program. Kiffin has definitely been apart of a few championship team coaching staffs. He was the co-offensive coordinator at USC under Pete Carroll in the early 2000s when USC had Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart blowing teams out left and right. Lane was also the offensive coordinator at Alabama from 2014 to 2017; winning another championship as an assistant.
Kiffin’s track record isn’t the best when we consider how short his tenure has typically been. He has not stayed anywhere long enough to see multiple recruiting classes come through a program. Some may wonder if he can build a program and sustain the level needed to compete at the highest level year in and year out as the head man. But we might find out real soon.
The Miami Hurricanes and The Florida Gators are both looking for their next head coach and Lane Kiffin is right at the top of the list for both programs. Although both programs would not mind having Kiffin’s talents as a head coach, there are clear differences between the two rivals where one might be a better fit for Kiffin than the other.
We will rank the key factors Lane Kiffin might consider when deciding between Miami and Florida. Ranking from 1 to 5. 1 being terrible and 5 being excellent. I will breakdown key attributes
The Gators are only a year removed from playing in the SEC Championship game against Alabama; a game that went down to the forth quarter. The Florida program is not a dumpster fire, but the motivation from the players and staff seemed to have left the building. The entire 2021 season will be one to forget by all Gator fans and alum. This is why Dan Mullen had to go. The team became undisciplined and did not look like they wanted to fight for Dan as the season went along. So let’s start with the conference and work our way down.
Florida is top-2 when we talk about the premier brands in the SEC. The only program that can claim to be the top brand over Florida in the SEC is Alabama. They’re the reason the SEC Championship game was even created in the first place.
Unlike the SEC West that has Bama, LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M, and eventually Oklahoma and Texas in the near future, Florida has to worry about 1 program in their division which is Georgia. At this present moment, Georgia looks like the SEC East juggernaut but they are not. Florida still holds a sizable winning record over their rival. When Florida has a good team they typically beat the Dawgs on a regular bases.
If Kiffin were to take the job at Florida he could quickly recruit the players needed to compete against anybody in the country. He wouldn’t have to worry about the cluttered west division and he would still be in the toughest conference in college football. Winning all your games would be an automatic birth into the college football playoff, but losing in the SEC Championship game but a win in every other game would still get most 1 loss SEC teams into the college football playoffs.
I rank this factor a 5. The reason is that it is the SEC. Although the conference is difficult to navigate, a good coach at Florida will be able to beat most teams in the conference in any given year.
Florida is not only in the SEC, but they are in the recruiting hotbed of college football. The state of Florida produces the most NFL players year in and year out. Most of the states 3-star prospects would be rated 4-star prospects in other state. The talented state is rich with speed at every position that would be a goldmine for an offensive minded coach like Lane Kiffin. If he is able to get the current players to buy in, Kiffin could turn Florida around in one season and completely dominate the recruiting scene in Florida.
I rank recruiting a 4.5 because it can be relatively easy to recruit in the state regardless of how many programs come into the state to recruit the top players. Developing the talent will be the biggest hurdle for Lane at Florida.
Most might say why would I rank the location so low, but if you are from the state of Florida like I am and are comparing Gainesville, Florida to Miami, Florida then you will know there is a huge difference. Gainesville is a college town like most SEC programs. Lane might like the college town atmosphere on game day but could be bored the rest of the week. Florida isn’t far from Orlando or Jacksonville if he is looking for entertainment. Gainesville is better than Oxford, Mississippi and most of the SEC cities, but again Gainesville vs Miami. It’s just different.
The bonus I will give Florida on its location is that Gainesville won’t give your players as many distractions as Miami would.
Key Returners: Anthony Richardson (QB), Jacob Copeland (WR)
Remember, Florida isn’t too far removed from competing in the SEC Championship game. The Gators lost a lot of talent from the previous year and haven’t truly recruited too well in 2021 for 2022. I would give the roster a ranking of a 3.5.
The Gators defensive line never tends to drop off to far in talent which gives them an upper hand in most games. The Gators also recruit defensive backs really well too. Some even go as far as to call them DBU. Florida has a talented roster that just needs a good quarterback to run the offense. With Emory Jones graduating and Anthony Richardson fully taking over the offense at quarterback, I wouldn’t be shock to see the Florida offense show how deep their roster is when it comes to talent in 2022 if used properly.
Florida’s administration lead by AD Scott Stricklin is in the business of winning and building a championship program across all of the universities sports programs. The move to release Dan Mullen to some seemed well overdue but like I stated previously, Dan Mullen had just taken his team to the SEC Championship game in 2020. It would have been a bad look to not give Mullen the curtesy of finishing out the season. Yes, Florida did move to announce the transition a week before the end of the season, they still gave Mullen the opportunity to coach the last game of the season and he declined.
A guy like Kiffin would be given an administration that is committed to winning at the highest level by any mean necessary. The expectations at Florida is much higher than that of Ole Miss as it should be. Kiffin will be expected to Win on the recruiting trail, on the field, and on draft day. My only concern would be if Kiffin can meet the high level of expectations.
Florida has a crazy fanbase that will show up to make the environment difficult for any opponent that steps into the swamp. check out this video and hear what The Swamp sounds like on any given Saturday.
It has been 20 years since the Hurricanes won their last National Championship and the fans are getting restless. Since then Miami has had 4 different head coaches including the current coach Manny Diaz. Ever since Kirk Herbstreit blasted the Miami administration for not being committed to the football program on national tv, the schools administration has started to act on changing the program around. It almost as if the program has been on autopilot while the rest of college football has been flying by them.
What might catch Lane Kiffin’s eye about Miami is that the Canes are a good coach away from being back in the conversation for the College Football Playoffs. If we take a look at Mark Richt’s 3 years at Miami, by year two which was 2017, Miami was ranked as high as #2 in the College Football playoffs. That 2017 team won 10 straight games before coming up short against Pitt one game before playing Clemson in the ACC Championship game. A good offensive minded coach like Lane might see that as a key indicator that Miami could be the right place. So lets begin with the conference rank and work our way down to Administration and Fan Base.
I know you will look at this and say that the ACC is a terrible conference and comparing them to the SEC is laughable, but the key here is will Lane value the ACC over the SEC because of how winnable the ACC will be if he gets Miami back up and running again. Clemson has managed to dominate the conference for half a decade because the rest of the competition would eliminate themselves in conference play. Before Clemson became a constant figure head at the top of the ACC, it was Florida State sitting there when Jimbo was leading the Noles.
A Miami lead Lane Kiffin team could easily compete for the ACC Championship game every year with the right staff in place. Again, It took Mark Richt just two years to get Miami into its first ACC Championship game, so we can only imagine what a Lane Kiffin lead Miami squad would do. The SEC is the toughest conference that gives them a 5-star rating, but the ease at which Lane could take over the ACC if he put the right coaches in place at Miami would impressive. Miami’s only competition in the conference is FSU, Clemson, and North Carolina….. maybe. FSU is always a dog fight game and Clemson should bounce back next year to become the gatekeepers of the ACC again.
Key Returners: Tyler Van Dyke (QB), Jaylan Knighton (RB), Receiving Core, James Williams (SS), Avantae Williams (SS), Leonard Taylor(DT), Donald Chaney Jr. (RB)
The Miami roster is better than the roster they had when they won 10 games under Mark Richt. Miami has great quarterback room with Tyler Van Dyke (TVD) and Jake Garcia. Two highly touted QBs coming out of high school and one in TVD who has thrown for more than 300+ yards and 3 TDs in five straight games. He has won ACC Rookie of the week honors 4 out of the 5 weeks. A second year freshman that would be the top QB in the conference returning next season would give Lane Kiffin an upper hand going into any contest the next few years. Miami has weapons on the Offensive side of the ball that shows flashes but hasn’t fully been utilized by the current coaching staff. The need to play seniors over the better player at a position is the reason why Fans and players were getting frustrated with Diaz. This is also a reason why Miami, after starting the season 2-4, began playing Freshman to give them a spark.
Lane would have a young team with a crazy amount of experience going into next season. Miami has two headed monster in the backfield going into spring football. Lane could possibly plug and play his offense and immediately score 35+ points a game with this roster on offense.
Miami’s defense is another story. Manny Diaz let the defense go down the drain year after year. Every game this year you could make the assumption that the defense was not aware they were playing a game. Every play it looked like someone was out of place and on every play it looked like nobody knew they were playing tackle football. The sad part about the defense were the seniors who have been in the Manny Diaz system for years. Those guys played with no sense of urgency or accountability during the entire year.
If Lane wants to win at Miami he will need to find a defensive coordinator who can build a defense that put fear into the heart of the offenses that they play. Miami has a lot of good young players that can be the foundation for the future.
Currently Miami is ranked the lowest they have been in years around this time in recruiting at 57th in the country by 24/7 sports. Manny Diaz and staff were trying a new strategy that entailed not offering players too early to make sure that recruits would commit to Miami because they wanted to and not because they were looking to gain more offers.
The bright side of Miami being in Miami is that they have the beauty of sitting in the heart of recruiting country. Throw a stone outside in any direction in south Florida and you will hit a solid player. The issue Miami has suffered from in recruiting is keeping players from going to other schools outside the area. Keeping the top players home is going to be a priority, but more so developing the players that do stay in Miami. Over the years Miami has recruited great high school talent but were never able to pull out all the potential from those players. Most under achieve at Miami or sit on the bench so long that they end up transferring to get an opportunity to play. Recruits in the future classes will take note of current top recruits performances and where they’re drafted at when the time comes.
Lane Kiffin will have to develop the current players on Miami’s roster; a roster that has a ton of potential and hungry player that want a chance to compete against the best. If Miami were to land Lane Kiffin they could be a quicker turnaround than Florida. Miami’s road block to the top is Miami’s inability to put their best players on the field so they can get quality development.
Miami will most likely dip into the transfer portal a little more this off-season because of the lack of commitments in the 2022 class. Although the portal has been useful to Miami since the portal began, the portal will never replace the most important aspect of any college football program which is recruiting high school players and developing those players.
The biggest difference between Miami and Florida is that Miami is private. As a private school Miami’s budget seemed to be something of an issue for them. Miami wouldn’t spend what was needed to compete with the modern game of college football. The good thing is that Miami’s administration has openly said they will commit between 20-30 million to the football program seeing that it is the schools biggest marketing tool.
The administration is rank so low because it is one thing to talk a big game but can the administration back it up. Julio Frenk, the president of the University of Miami who has been at the school since 2015, has assured that the school is committed to excellence in every area of the University. The question is will he keep his word and make a real effort at making Miami a football powerhouse again.
If Frenk is committed to getting the football program back where it needs to be then Lane Kiffin could be the guy to steer the Hurricanes back. The admin score will improve when the admin backs up their word with results.
Fan Base: 1
Miami has a deep fan base that will not show up to a game if the product on field isn’t good. In 2017, Miami fans showed up once they saw the team was worth watching. Not only did they show up big in back to back primetime games, one of Miami’s opponents was quoted saying it was the loudest environment they had been in all season.
Lane can bring the fans back out as he starts to win. The good thing is that as he wins he will be able to see the support starting to show when the stands start to fill up. The city of Miami supports winners, and when you’re not winning the fans will let you know.
Who’s A Better Fit?
Florida would be the better fit when we tally up the rankings. Florida’s administration and fan base is the big difference here. Miami has a fan base like Florida in terms of a national noteriety, but when you are not winning on an annual bases those fans have other activities they can turn their focus too. Remember, the city of Miami has a NFL team, NBA team, MLB team, MLS team, NHL team, and a world class beach and nightlife scene that will make any fan base distracted. Gainesville is just another college town that doesn’t have many attractions. Yes, Orlando is close by, but it’s nothing like Miami.
Lane will also get an administration that wants to win and win at all cost at Florida. It is still yet to be seen or known what Miami’s administration will do to support their new head football coach once the change happens. The only thing Miami will offer Lane over Florida that may sway him away from Florida is that Miami wants to win so badly that they won’t a coach with an edge and natural swag to him. Lane has everything Miami wants but needs in a coach; Championship DNA, recruiting ability, player development skill and track record, and a savvy offensive mind.
(Feature photo credit: Larry Brown Sports)