This time, Lane Kiffin says he's innocent

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin did his best Tuesday to distance himself from comments attributed to him during the recruitment of heralded receiver Alshon Jeffery, who wound up signing with South Carolina.

In a last-ditch recruiting effort that was confirmed to ESPN.com by Jeffery and his Calhoun County (S.C.) High School coach, Walter Wilson, Kiffin told Jeffery during the wee hours of the morning on national signing day that he would end up pumping gas for the rest of his life like all the other players in the state of South Carolina if he signed with the Gamecocks.

Kiffin, who's already been reprimanded by the SEC for comments he made about Florida coach Urban Meyer, says that this time, he's innocent.

"I never said that to Alshon, nor would I say anything like that," an obviously concerned Kiffin said during a meeting in his office. "That's just not something I would say."

Kiffin has been a lightning rod ever since taking the Tennessee head job. In addition to erroneously calling out Meyer for cheating, he's sparred with South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and openly gloated about hiring away coaches from Alabama, Mississippi State and South Carolina.

In the aftermath of the Meyer firestorm, Kiffin suggested that any publicity was good publicity when you're trying to recruit at this level. He also said he wasn't really concerned about offending anybody else around the SEC as long as the Tennessee fans were energized and behind the team.

But he made it clear Tuesday that he doesn't want to be known as a negative recruiter.

"That's not the way we're going to do things here, and it's something I don't condone," Kiffin said. "Things get said all the time in recruiting, but I don't know where (the pumping gas comment) came from."

Probably the best news for Kiffin and the Vols is that practice is finally here. They opened spring workouts on Tuesday afternoon.