Bucs make Morris Kiffin's successor

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't look far for a replacement for Monte Kiffin.

Secondary coach Raheem Morris will take over as defensive coordinator in 2009, ensuring continuity next season with Kiffin leaving the NFL to join his son, Lane, at the University of Tennessee.

If the Bucs (9-6) don't make the playoffs, Sunday will be the 68-year-old Kiffin's last game in Tampa Bay.

"He's been with me a long time and he's had a lot of success here. He's had his hand in a lot of real good things," coach Jon Gruden said, adding he wanted to end speculation about Kiffin's successor and whether the Bucs will continue to run the Tampa 2 scheme.

"I like this defense. I believe in it, and certainly believe in Raheem Morris. I believe he'll be outstanding."

Morris is in his sixth season as a Bucs assistant, second as defensive backs coach. He initially joined Gruden's staff as a defensive quality assistant in 2002, was a defensive assistant in 2003 and assistant defensive backs coach for the next two seasons before spending one year as defensive coordinator at Kansas State.

The Bucs ranked in the top five in total defense each of Morris' first five seasons in Tampa Bay, including No. 1 in 2002, when Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl. They're ranked ninth heading into Sunday's regular-season finale.

While Gruden's phone has been ringing constantly since Kiffin announced plans to join his son at the end of the season, the coach said Morris has everything he was looking for in a replacement.

"I'm a big energy believer. I like guys with juice. I think you have to be a leader. I think you have to be able to motivate and stimulate these guys, relate to them -- veterans, young players," Gruden said.

"He knows the kind of players we're looking for. He knows the routine here in terms of what it takes to play in this system. I've been impressed with him throughout the six, seven years I've been with him. He's had a year coordinating in the Big 12, and I think it's the right thing to do. I think our players will respond to him."

Morris left for Kansas State after Tampa Bay again ranked first in total defense in 2005. Gruden lured him back when the Bucs dropped to 19th in pass defense the following season.

"I'm happy for him," cornerback Phillip Buchanon said. "He's studied under some great coaches like Kiffin and Mike Tomlin, and it's his time now."