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Kiffin's brand is all over new-look Vols

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Lane Kiffin just bought a house here, which is nice since he slept on his office couch -- again. His wife and three kids are waiting in Tampa for the move, but until then -- and probably after then -- Kiffin is on a 29-hour work day.

If you want to know why lots of University of Tennessee football fans are geeked about their new coach, this is one of the reasons. This and the fact that Kiffin just pulled in a boffo recruiting class, that one-third of the Southeastern Conference already can't stand him and that he hasn't lost a game yet.

He also hasn't won a game yet. He hasn't even coached as much as a spring game at UT. That comes April 18.
Lots of coaches put in the hours, but few have done it as noisily as Kiffin. He wants everyone, especially prospective recruits, to know what he's doing. He wants Tennessee in the public consciousness, even if it's sometimes for the wrong reasons. Bad publicity is better than no publicity, right?

Anyway, half of his massive office looks as though government agents ransacked the place in search of secret launch codes. Piles of workout shirts spill out of a cardboard box on the floor. A piece of black luggage sits on its back. There are workout shorts. A pair of sneakers. An empty water bottle. Some work papers. An open cabinet or two. A small blanket (the one he used the night before) hangs on for dear life on a sofa cushion.

Kiffin isn't crazy about the office color (sort of modernistic goth black) and the formal part of the room is too regal for his tastes (the desk used by former UT coach Phillip Fulmer looks down on visitors). But the redecorating will come later. Right now, spring practices are going on. Later this week, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, only a few months removed from a Super Bowl victory, is scheduled to speak at a Saturday coaches clinic and then stick around for UT's scrimmage.

All things considered, this is sort of a light morning for Kiffin. He just got done meeting with a player (the player wants to quit). Then there's me and the podcast. Then a meeting with the athletic director. But before he walks over to the AD's office, Kiffin ducks inside the program's War Room.

Most of the assistant coaches are in there, including human Red Bull machine Ed Orgeron, who worked with Kiffin at Southern California and later became the head coach at Ole Miss. On a back wall is a huge map of the United States, in some cases complete with the names of specific state counties. Colored pins are placed in prime, target-rich recruiting areas where Tennessee has an interest. Lots and lots of pins are in Florida.

More than anything, this map will help determine Kiffin's future at UT. It begins with turning enough of those colored pins into signed recruits. Then turning those recruits into winning teams. Win enough games at Tennessee and Vols fans will love you forever. Or love you until you quit winning. Fulmer, who left with a national championship and a 74.5 winning percentage (but hadn't won an SEC title since 1998), can tell you all about that.

Maybe that's why Kiffin has turned the volume up to the 11 here. Kiffin is intense. His assistants are intense. And his players had better be intense. There are even "Loaf-Cams'' at workouts to monitor which players aren't working hard enough.

I'm not sure I buy his explanations for his verbal forearm shivers to Florida's Urban Meyer and to several other SEC programs. He says in the podcast it was all part of a master plan to make Tennessee relevant. Maybe so, but it also made Florida players, including Tim Tebow, mad. And that's never a good thing, especially when Tennessee plays the Gators at The Swamp on Sept. 19.

Kiffin addresses the controversies in the podcast and suggests that his coaching peers will understand why he did what he did. He details his recruiting philosophies. In short, he doesn't mind if he and his staff scare the hell out of a recruit. Deal with it.

He discusses the arrival of his 2009 recruiting class, which will include star running back Bryce Brown. He talks about his old man, the great NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. He says he's optimistic about his new offense and the quarterback most likely to run it, Jonathan Crompton, a senior who was benched during parts of the 2008 season.
Kiffin's tenure at UT will be many things, but it won't be boring. In the end, he will be judged by results and championships won, just as Fulmer was.

The clock begins Sept. 5 at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee versus Western Kentucky.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.