Lane Kiffin is having a productive morning in his first signing day at FAU. On the heels of learning Kiffin managed to flip a JUCO wide receiver from heading to UCLA, Kiffin has apparently managed to flip another talented wide receiver to come play for the Owls.
Willie Wright of Jacksonville, Florida was heading to Memphis to play for the Tigers in the AAC, but now he will be lining up to catch passes in Kiffin’s offense in Boca Raton. Rivals rates Wright as a two-star prospect, although other recruiting services have him as a three-star prospect. Regardless, this is a decent addition to Kiffin’s first recruiting class at FAU.
In addition to handling wide receiver duties, Wright also has experience as a kick returner, which could be a role he takes on at FAU early on. Wright was one of the first players to receive an offer from Kiffin once he took over the head coaching job on a full-time basis, and he made an official visit in mid-January. He made one final official visit to Memphis on Jan. 27 as the recruiting battle went down to the wire.
Lane Kiffin being hired by FAU may have been one of the more surprising developments in this recent round of the coaching carousel, but it is clearly an opportunity Kiffin is embracing. Already having made one of the more controversial recruiting moves in his first few days on the job, Kiffin is also looking to help support the school’s scholarship fund by encouraging fans to buy season tickets.
In a letter to FAU fans on Friday, Kiffin committed to making a donation to the university’s scholarship fund for every season ticket sold by the university. With attendance being a notable problem for a number of college football programs, including at FAU, finding new ways to give an incentive to buy tickets is always needed. How many fans decide to buy tickets as a result of Kiffin’s pledge to donate to the scholarship fund remains to be seen. It is also unknown how much Kiffin was planning to donate per season ticket.
But every little bit helps, right?
The hiring of Kiffin has brought a new buzz to the FAU program, something that was desperately needed following three consecutive three-win seasons.
Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin may not have been the right guy for the job at Houston, and South Florida ended up going in a different direction as well. Despite missing out on some very interesting job positions, Kiffin will reportedly fill the head coaching vacancy at Florida Atlantic. Brett McMurphy of ESPN reported the coaching hire news, via Twitter. Others soon followed wiht the same information. Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports reports Kiffin will sign a five-year contract.
FAU dismissed Charlie Partridge as the head coach following a third-straight 3-9 season. The Owls, coming off their fourth season in Conference USA, may actually be in better shape as a program now compared to when Partridge was hired even if the record may not show it. Kiffin is stepping into a much smaller spotlight with the Owls, but it is not one that will prevent him from leaving his mark as a head coach. The pressure to win at FAU is nowhere close to where it has been in Kiffin’s recent stops at Tennessee, USC and as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.
The Kiffin-FAU pairing does feel a bit strange at first considering how much Kiffin’s name has been thrown around in recent weeks for various jobs, ranging from potential head coach at Houston or USF to being offensive coordinator at LSU. The big question left unanswered is whether this will be used as a stepping stone to a bigger job offer down the line if Kiffin proves he is capable of being a solid head coach. Such is the life of a Group of Five program, and Kiffin’s name will continue to be thrown in the rumor mill if he has just an ounce of success with the Owls. But Kiffin will get a chance to recruit in Florida, and that should be something he can do well. The recruiting battles in Florida alone just got a whole lot more fun to watch with Kiffin and Charlie Strong coming in to the state.
It is expected Kiffin will stay on the Alabama coaching staff throughout the College Football Playoff run, but who takes Kiffin’s spot on the coaching staff will have to be addressed by Nick Saban at some point. Steve Sarkisian was added to the football staff and could be in line for a possible promotion to offensive coordinator.
FAU hiring Kiffin leaves two FBS coaching vacancies to fill for now. Temple and Western Kentucky remain on the lookout for a new head coach.
The Houston Cougars are reportedly hoping to have a new head coach named as soon as this coming weekend. As expected, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and former LSU head coach Les Miles are among the final candidates being considered for the job.
One candidate no longer to be in the mix, according to a report from Joseph Duarte of The Houston Chronicle, is Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. That should be good news for Oklahoma, as it likely means Riley will be back in Norman for at least one more season to run the offense (and with Baker Mayfield coming back for 2017, the Sooners offense should continue to rack up some big numbers).
As noted by Duarte, five total candidates were vetted by Houston for the head coaching job. Kiffin, Miles and interim Houston coach Todd Orlando and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite along with Riley all were checked by the university as a decision is approaching.
As soon as Ed Orgeron had the interim tag removed from his title by LSU over the weekend, the head coach got busy making sure he had the best staff in place to guide LSU in 2017 and beyond. One of the early steps was to secure defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Mission accomplished.
Aranda has been signed to a three-year contract extension, according to a report from ESPN. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but Aranda was already making $1.2 million for the 2016 season, the first on a three-year deal after leaving Wisconsin.
Keeping Aranda was a key objective for Orgeron, as Aranda is one of the top defensive coordinators in the nation and showed some good work with LSU this season. LSU finished the regular season ranked 12th in total defense and seventh in scoring defense.
Now, Orgeron must find a competent offensive coordinator. Lane Kiffin has been floated around as a possibility if they can lure Kiffin away from Alabama for the same role. Kiffin should also be a name worth watching for potential job openings for a head coach.