Money's in place for Kiffin to hire the staff he wants

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Lane Kiffin didn't want to talk about his staff Monday during his press conference, but the worst-kept secret in town is that his father, Monte, is coming along with him to Tennessee following the completion of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' season.

Kiffin has told recruits as much, and he also told the team as much during their 41-minute meeting on Sunday night.

David Reaves, the former South Carolina quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator, has already been hired by Kiffin and is in Knoxville. Reaves is Kiffin's brother-in-law.

Kiffin also hopes to finalize a deal with former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron, who's now the defensive line coach with the New Orleans Saints. Orgeron is a relentless recruiter and has already started telling people that the "Orange Swarm" is coming to Knoxville.

Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton acknowledged that the staff Kiffin was putting together was a part of what made him so attractive.

Here's the other important thing: The Vols are giving Kiffin the financial means to go out and hire a star-studded staff. His budget for assistants could go all the way up to just under $3 million if he gets everybody he wants. That figure would be $1 million more than the allotment for the previous staff, which was around $1.9 million.

Hamilton said during the contract negotiations that Kiffin even asked that any money he might be paid for coach of the year bonuses instead go to the pool for assistant coaches.

"This is a true team player," Hamilton said. "What he talked to me about was: If I'm going to succeed, if we're going to succeed, it's about having the right kind of people around me. I want to hire the best possible staff I can hire, a staff that everybody in college football looks at and says, 'How did Tennessee put that staff together?' "

The interesting part of all this is that a budget of just under $3 million would place Tennessee among the top two or three teams in the SEC as far as staff salaries.

However, Kiffin's salary of $2 million next year is probably going to rank him about eighth in the SEC among head coaches when you factor in the raise that Ole Miss' Houston Nutt is going to get. Nutt made $1.85 million this year.

"Be patient with us. It's going to take time," Kiffin said of putting together his staff. "When it's all said and done, you'll be extremely happy with the staff that comes here. Give it time. It's more important that we do it right, not that we do it fast."

It sounds like Kiffin will call his own plays at Tennessee, which he also did with the Oakland Raiders. He called plays at Southern California his last two years there as offensive coordinator in 2005 and 2006.

"The only way I'm not going to call plays is that it's going to be somebody I feel very good with and have a great relationship with, that I can really trust and still manage the offense," Kiffin said.

In the interim, Kiffin has retained four offensive assistants from the previous Tennessee staff and said he will interview all four. They are tight ends coach Jason Michael, offensive line coach Greg Adkins, receivers coach Latrell Scott and running backs coach Stan Drayton.