Given what he’s been through the past few years, expect Lane Kiffin to succeed at Florida Atlantic.
Make no mistake about it: some experts didn’t think that Kiffin would ever become a head coach again. After all, he rubbed a lot of people the wrong way by leaving Tennessee after just one season to take the job at USC. He didn’t exactly succeed as the head coach of the Trojans, finishing with a 17-12 mark in Pac-12 play, which resulted in his dismissal five games into the 2013 campaign. And, although he was supposedly a candidate for a handful of openings over the past couple of seasons, reference calls to Tennessee and USC rendered him virtually unhireable. Houston board of regents chairman Tilman Fertitta echoed that sentiment when he told KILT-AM that Kiffin was “not a safe hire”.
Despite these criticisms, Florida Atlantic tapped him to lead the program.
The school won’t regret doing so. Sure, he’s done plenty of things wrong in the past, but those mistakes were due to youth and inexperience. Remember, Kiffin was the youngest head coach in the nation when he took over for Phillip Fulmer. While he certainly knew all about X’s and O’s, Kiffin still had a lot to learn about being a head coach, which is something that comes with experience.
That’s certainly something that he picked up over the last three seasons. As the offensive coordinator on Nick Saban’s staff, Kiffin saw firsthand how to run a top-notch program. He also learned how to prepare for a game and not to become complacent, even after a decisive victory.
This experience will pay dividends for Florida Atlantic next fall. Yes, the Owls went 3-9 this year, but four of those losses were by a touchdown or less. FAU will return nine starters on both sides of the ball next season, which will make it one of the most experienced teams in the country. Given Kiffin’s ability to develop quarterbacks – remember, he helped Alabama reach the College Football Playoff three years in a row with a first-year starter under center– I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Owl offense become one of the more explosive units in Conference USA.
In fact, I expect nothing less. Kiffin has been waiting for the opportunity to prove that he can be a successful head coach, so he’ll do everything in his power to make that happen. Now that he’s older and wiser, I think he’ll live up to the lofty expectations people had about him when he first started coaching.