New Vol boss Kiffin shifts focus to field
Posted: Wednesday, September 2, 2009 5:03 pm
By: By BETH RUCKER, Associated Press Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Lane Kiffin doesn’t mind the speaking engagements, the breakfasts with boosters and pep rallies.
But Tennessee’s coach loves most what’s he doing right now — shutting out everything but football.
“Today, we get to shut the door,” the Volunteers’ first-year coach said. “From early this morning until when the players get here, there’s no distractions. It’s football time, and we get to really focus on getting our players better and really focus on the exact game plan.”
Behind that closed door there’s much work to be done.
The coaching staff is still drawing up a game plan for Saturday’s opener against Western Kentucky and still must decide who will start at a few of Tennessee’s most competitive positions.
“We’re still a long ways away Saturday morning,” Kiffin said. “Our mentality of our team is a daily battle to work on because we’ve never been with them. As much as we’ve rehearsed every day leading up to it, it still is different once you get to it. We have a ton of work to do.”
Players have been given play books, videos and Power Point presentations to help prepare.
They’ve walked through every aspect of game day — from visiting the hotel where they’ll stay Friday night to spending the same amount of time in the locker room for scrimmages as they will during games.
The rehearsal hasn’t just been for the players.
The coaches have been working on communicating plays to one another from the press box to the sideline and from the sideline to the playing field.
“With a staff that for the most part has not worked together that has been very critical, and it’s been something that we’ve really worked on because every second is so valuable,” Kiffin said. “There’s a science to that and a rhythm to it, so we’ve worked extremely hard on it, and we will continue to on Saturday.”
After putting the Vols through a grueling fall camp, Kiffin has scaled back on the length of practices to conserve players’ energy.
Injuries have left Tennessee with a lack of depth at a few positions, and a 11:21 p.m. kickoff could mean hot playing conditions.
“We’re going to need a lot of guys to play,” Kiffin said. “The last thing we want to do is beat them down late in the week.”