Posted: 12:43 pm Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
By Jason Lieser
Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin was in Palm Beach County this morning, but Glades Central and Pahokee said they were not expecting him to visit.
Kiffin stopped by Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens and Dwyer earlier today. Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said Kiffin was there to speak with Matt Elam and several of the team’s highly-rated juniors. Elam considered Tennessee at one point, then later reaffirmed his commitment to Florida.
The Gators and Volunteers will go head-to-head over several Dwyer players next year, especially TE Nick O’Leary and DE Curt Maggitt.
At the other schools, Kiffin began making inroads on talented sophomores. Jupiter’s Tyler Cameron (6-3, 205) is expected to one of the area’s top quarterbacks over the next two seasons and Tennessee also has an eye on hulking Palm Beach Gardens offensive tackle Avery Young (6-5, 282).
Kiffin’s visits to Jupiter and Palm Beach Gardens were not scheduled in advance.
“I was surprised when he walked in,” Warriors coach Charlie Persson said. “I didn’t even recognize who it was until I sat down with him.
“He’s a great guy. We talked about a bunch of stuff.”
Persson said Kiffin was only in South Florida for a limited time before he had to fly back to Knoxville, Tenn., so that could explain why he did not head west to Pahokee and Belle Glade.
Persson, in his 29th season coaching Jupiter, also said he can overlook some of Kiffin’s brash behavior, including some questionable comments about Pahokee.
“Part of the issue is when you’re a first-year college coach, sometimes you say silly things or get over-rambunctious,” Persson said. “You just have to apologize and move on and I think that was done.
“If you go back to Steve Spurrier and some of his quotes from his early years at UF, he didn’t exactly endear himself to Georgia fans or Tennessee fans or a lot of other fans. But I’m sure the Tennessee fans love Lane Kiffin — at least for one more year. He’s still on the honeymoon.”
Palm Beach Gardens coach Chris Davis was equally caught off-guard when Kiffin showed up at his campus today.
Davis previously was an assistant at Lakeland, a school that regularly produces BCS prospects, and said Kiffin is getting a head start on young players by making these visits. College coaches cannot talk with sophomores, but conversations with their coaches tend to make an early impact.
“When you get 900 pieces of mail, this shows that he’s genuinely interested in one of my players,” Davis said. “It’s a good way to put your stamp on a program. That’s what good schools do.
“That’s the first time I’ve seen a head coach on campus this early, even when we had all the D-I guys at Lakeland. It was a pleasant surprise, a good way to start the day. He’s real personable. He doesn’t come off at all like what everybody says he is.”
Kiffin was rumored to be headed to Treasure Coast to visit linebacker Jeff Luc (6-1, 240, No. 2 on The Big Board), but assistant coach Aaron Sheppard said only Tennessee assistant Eddie Gran came to the school.
The Volunteers (3-3) are coming off a big win over Georgia and have a bye week before traveling to face No. 2 Alabama. With no game this weekend, it would not be surprising to see Kiffin back in South Florida in a few days.