Lane Kiffin knows Tennessee well. He's determined for that knowledge to benefit him.
The Southern California head coach is well on his way. He's nabbed the top prospect in Tennessee, safety Jalen Ramsey from Brentwood Academy, and the fourth-best prospect in Kentucky, defensive end Jason Hatcher from Trinity High School in Louisville.
The key to those two four-star commitments? Kiffin said in a recent interview with a Knoxville, Tenn., radio station that it was the offseason acquisition of former Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin. Martin coaches receivers for the Trojans, handles recruiting in much of the Southeast and was a key figure in wooing Ramsey and Hatcher.
“He's doing great,” Kiffin said on WNML, when asked of Martin. “He's made an immediate impact. We had heard great things about him. We had a great interview process with him and thought he'd really fit in, but he's exceeded even our expectations.
“He's come in and has probably the best two receivers in the country that he's coaching and he's taken them to the next level. His impact around the country, especially in the South, has been felt in recruiting. We're excited to have him.”
Kiffin said he met Martin while recruiting the same athletes when he was as assistant coach at Kentucky. Kiffin then filed away his thoughts on Martin until he had an opening on his coaching staff.
“I just watched his presence and how he went about things when he was working,” Kiffin said of the meetings at various high schools. “I was very impressed with him. When we had an opportunity and there was interest on his side, we got to sit down longer. Not only is he a great assistant coach for us now, but I think he's going to be a great head coach someday, too.”
Kiffin and USC will certainly still lean on California talent in recruiting. However, they are more than willing to hit the Southeast for standout stars.
“We've had success in the area around Tennessee,” Kiffin said. “There certainly seems to be some star players coming out of the area in general as of late. I think everybody knows that you're not going to have 20 to 25 major Division I players [in Tennessee], but there has been some stars coming out as of late.”