Ole Miss’ offseason of staff turnover continued on Thursday with the Fox Sports report that defensive line coach Chris Kiffin has accepted an offer from his brother, Lane, to become the defensive coordinator at FAU. Lane, of course, recently left his gig as Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator to get back into head coaching at FAU.
Fox Sports is also reporting that Ole Miss has hired Sam Houston State’s Phil Longo as its next offensive coordinator.
Kiffin’s departure, in connection with some of the other staff departures rumored to be in the works, will fuel theories that Hugh Freeze’s assistants are jumping ship in anticipation of serious NCAA sanctions, and indeed that could be true. In Kiffin’s case, however, this probably would have happened regardless. You don’t turn down your brother when he’s offering you a promotion, particularly when you apparently weren’t considered for the same promotion at your current school (Ole Miss seems to be zeroing in on Auburn’s Wesley McGriff as defensive coordinator).
Still, this is bad news for Freeze, as it costs him an excellent D-line coach and productive recruiter. Outside of wide receiver, no Ole Miss position group has been deeper or more productive than Kiffin’s line, which has for years been one of the SEC’s best. Kiffin helped land Robert Nkemdiche when he was the nation’s No. 1 recruit and was also listed as the primary recruiter for Laremy Tunsil and Laquon Treadwell during that historic 2013 class. He was named by Scout as that year’s National Recruiter of the Year. Kiffin also helped bag blue-chip defensive tackles Benito Jones and D.J. Jones. He helped Marquis Haynes go from an undersized three-star to one of the SEC’s most feared pass rushers (FYI, Haynes just announced he’s coming back for his senior season) and developed the lightly-recruited Fadol Brown into arguably the Rebels’ best defensive player in 2016.
During Kiffin’s Ole Miss tenure, 247Sports lists him as the primary recruiter for three five-stars and five four-stars.
But Kiffin, who followed Freeze over from Arkansas State in 2011, was also named in the NCAA’s notice of allegations letter, charged with three violations that include arranging for free meals and hotel stays for a recruit’s family members. As punishment, Ole Miss pulled him off the recruiting trail for 30 days over the summer.