Five weeks after his hire, Lane Kiffin’s first Ole Miss staff is still coming together.
One obvious common theme from the coaches who have been announced is recruiting. They have shown a knack for clicking with prospects.
That hasn’t always been the case for every staff member at Ole Miss, but it appears to be a prerequisite with Kiffin.
And it may be why the Freddie Roach-to-the-NFL story that was reported in multiple New York outlets has slowed a little bit.
Roach has completed three seasons as the Rebels’ defensive line coach and has himself recruited well.
Behind the scenes
Sources say Kiffin is working to keep him – likely for his own skill set, but with the added benefit of not upsetting the delicate nature of the chase for George County defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson.
A varsity starter and defensive leader as a ninth-grader, Jackson could make a major impact as a college freshman as the Rebels lose three starters up front. The Rebels’ position in the Jackson Sweepstakes – and they need to rebuild on the defensive line – is better with Roach on staff.
Kiffin has a name that connects with high school coaches and recruits. As he builds his staff it’s clear that’s not enough for him, and he wants to make sure he surrounds himself with guys who can go get players.
Defensive assistants D.J. Durkin and Chris Partridge have gained national attention doing just that. Offensive assistant Joe Jon Finley has strong recruiting ties in Texas.
Someone asked recently whether Kiffin was sacrificing coaching skill for recruiting connections. That’s not the case.
In Jeff Lebby he’s hired an offensive coordinator who guided a top-five offense at UCF in 2019 and was very successful as a position coach at UCF and Baylor before being promoted.
In this arrangement Lebby will coordinate Kiffin’s offense as opposed to the free reign veteran coach Rich Rodriguez had at Ole Miss last year.
Durkin was defensive coordinator at Florida in 2013 and 2014 and at Michigan in 2015. All three of those units finished in the top 15 in total defense, two of them in the top 10.
Mike MacIntyre’s one season as Ole Miss defensive coordinator last year showed the importance of teaching skill and organization.
Kiffin hasn’t sacrificed those skills for the sake of talkers who know how to be liked in the recruiting game.
Clearly, though, Kiffin knows you have to win at the recruiting game to win in the games that matter.
The makeup of his staff is bearing that out.