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Kiffin's departure already affecting USC and Vols recruiting classes


In Bizarro Coaching World, recruiting doesn't make sense, either. First, Florida's Urban Meyer quits, then flip-flops and decides to return after an indefinite leave of absence. (Someone please call me when that leave begins.) That should have killed the Gators' recruiting, right? Wrong. Top prospects have lined up to commit to Florida.

Now Lane Kiffin, who drew the ire of the NCAA in 14 months at Tennessee, goes to USC, where the NCAA has just completed an investigation and might be ready to drop the hammer next month. That should make Kiffin the recruiting equivalent of Kryptonite, right? Not so much.

Late Tuesday, Kyle Prater, ranked the nation's No. 1 receiver and No. 2 overall prospect by, texted Rivals reporter Mike Farrell and said he plans to enroll at USC on Monday. Just last weekend, Prater canceled his flight to Los Angeles and headed home to suburban Chicago after learning Pete Carroll was headed for Seattle. Prater had Tennessee in his final five before he committed to Carroll, so now he gets a program he likes and a coach he likes.

To review: Kiffin (NCAA target) goes to USC (future NCAA punching bag). Common sense would dictate recruits would run for the hills. What happens? He lands one of the most sought-after players in the nation.

Given everything that's happened in the past 17 days, that makes perfect sense.

Back in the land of conventional wisdom, something a little less unusual happened on Tuesday in Duncan, S.C. Gary Willis was about to drive his son, Brandon, to Knoxville so he could enroll at Tennessee on Wednesday. When Brandon learned Kiffin had bolted, the Willis men stayed put.

"We won't be going to Tennessee now," the elder Willis told

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Willis had narrowed his choices to UCLA, North Carolina and Tennessee. He announced his commitment to Tennessee during Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio. The elder Willis said the family had spoken to UCLA and North Carolina coaches on Tuesday night after the Kiffin news broke.

Had Willis, a defensive end, set foot in a class at Tennessee, he would have had to obtain a waiver from the NCAA to transfer without sitting out a year. "I'm glad it happened when it happened," Gary Willis said. "It could have been a real mess."

Brandon's Byrnes High teammate, Corey Miller, already was in Knoxville. The Willises called Miller and told him he should not, under any circumstances, attend class on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Miller told that he intends to attend class anyway. "I'm 100 percent Vols," Miller told the site. "I'm going to class tomorrow. I love Knoxville. I love this place and this is where I'm going to be. It was a letdown, but we've got to stick together as a team and pull through it."

If those names sound familiar, it's because Willis and Miller were the two recruits a pair of Tennessee hostesses visited at their game against Gaffney High on Sept. 25. That visit invited scrutiny from the NCAA, which wants to know whether the women acted on their own or whether they attended the game on the orders of a Tennessee staffer. With no reason to be loyal to Kiffin, will the women talk to the NCAA? The players broke no rule, so they won't get in trouble. Tennessee no longer employs those coaches, so the Volunteers probably would emerge unscathed. Guess who the NCAA would target? Anyone who wants to hire a coach in the NCAA's doghouse should ask an Indiana basketball fan how that story ends.

Later Tuesday, reported that former Tennessee recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron -- part of Kiffin's advance team already in Los Angeles -- called several Tennessee commitments and offered them scholarships to USC. The site reported that several early enrollees, in the locker room for their first meeting with their new Tennessee teammates, turned on their speaker phones so other players could hear Orgeron. If that accusation is 100 percent true, it will enrage other coaches, who already hated the way Kiffin and his staffers flouted the written and unwritten rules of recruiting. Even in the cutthroat world of football recruiting, it's considered extremely bad form to leave a program and then try to raid your old school's recruiting class.

Knowing all this, coaches undoubtedly will unload on Kiffin and his staff to any recruit considering USC when the next contact period begins Sunday. Most coaches engage in some sort of negative recruiting anyway; in Kiffin's case, they don't really have to lie. Of course, they've had more than two weeks to cast doubt on Meyer's return. Despite a lot of coaches' best efforts, Florida keeps reeling in recruits. It's a safe bet the charismatic Kiffin, in spite of everything, will haul in his fair share come national signing day.

Just another day in Bizzaro Coaching World, where up is down, left is right and the most precarious coaching situations attract recruits like moths to a bug zapper.

MANDEL: USC banking on Kiffin's potential, not his minor successes

AP: Kiffin leaves Tennessee after one season to return to USC