Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Usually entertaining, Kiffin mailed it in this time
Mississippi head coach Lane Kiffin speaks during NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days, Thursday, July 20, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Lane Kiffin, the brash, entertaining, know-it-all, wasn’t.
The Ole Miss football coach looked like he rolled out of bed Thursday, pulled on the first suit he could find and napped on the plane to SEC football media days.
He kicked off the final day and in his 35 minutes, he mentioned two players, one early and one late.
Basically he filibustered his time, talking about the woes of NIL and the transfer portal, sometimes at the same time. But he didn’t offer any solutions, even when he was asked if he had any.
He usually has lots of solutions and gets laughs. He got one laugh Thursday.
He was asked to rank the boosters and said he wasn’t going to rank boosters – but he’d like to. Mostly the usually entertaining guy was boring.
He mailed it in.
More from WholeHogSports: More coverage from SEC Media Days
The closest he came to talking about his team was when he said he had 40 new scholarship players. He spent a little time talking about being 8-1 last season before falling to 8-5.
Kiffin said Rebels had a chance to beat Alabama, but fell 30-24, then to Arkansas 42-27, Mississippi State 24-22 and Texas Tech 42-25.
Apparently the loss to the Crimson Tide started the collapse, and it was his fault, according to him, got not stopping it.
“We were 8-1, and with the ball in our hands to go down, obviously the 14-yard line, first and 10 with a chance to beat Alabama to have a great home win and to go to 9-1,” he said.
“That was a great run for a season and nine games there. I didn’t do a very good job over the year of keeping our team together, not as an excuse, but I said it up here a year ago, you know, the challenges when you have such a roster overhaul and so portal-heavy.
“And I’ve said I’ve always been concerned about culture issues when you do that because you don’t have kids that been there very long.’
OK, it was his and the players’ fault.
Oh, and he mentioned they should be better on defense, which it wouldn’t take much to improve for a team that averaged giving up almost 31 points per game in SEC play and the closest the Rebels had to a shutout in league play was holding Kentucky to 19.
Maybe Kiffin lost so many verbal sparring match’s with Alabama’s Nick Saban he just decided to carry his lessons over to media day.
Or he just didn’t want to be here, which could be understood as the coaches are taking away from some free time to promote SEC football.
Kiffin is the Teflon coach in Oxford, so much so that two days after the loss to Texas Tech, he was photographed fishing with his 27-year-old girlfriend. There was no criticism.
He’s definitely brought some excitement and higher expectations to the program with a 23-13 record overall and 14-11 in the SEC.
He’s taken the Rebels to three consecutive bowl games.
In Mississippi, his first name is not Former, as in former head coach the Los Angeles Raiders, former coach of the Tennessee Volunteers, former coach of the USC Trojans and former assistant to Saban.
Kiffin probably had SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey wincing as he continuously said the NIL and transfer portal had made college football into play for pay.
On the first day of the meetings, Sankey had expressed passionately that he didn’t want college football to become play for pay and he was counting on Congress to fix it because the states would not work together.
Kiffin just wasn’t himself at media days, but that won’t carry over into the season.
He’s a fierce competitor and good offensive coach, and when he engages that brain he may be funny or irritating. But he’s also very creative and hard to defend.
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