December 12, 2009

Gran discusses move; lauds Kiffin, UT

In the end, the chance to coach in a state where he already has dominated in recruiting was too much for Eddie Gran to overlook.

The longtime Southeastern Conference assistant coaching veteran was formally announced as the newest member of ascending Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher's staff on Wednesday; had first reported Gran would join the FSU staff on Sunday. He received a sizable raise and added security with a three-year contract.

"It was a great one year. The people here in Knoxville, the community, everybody treated my family and me great. I've got relationships on this staff that I'll have forever. Lane Kiffin was as good as anybody I've been around," said Gran, who joined the Vols' staff in January after 10 years with Tommy Tuberville at Auburn. "Not only football wise �" and I've learned a ton of football under Lane Kiffin and Jim Chaney. They are really going to get this offense rolling, there's no doubt about it. For Lane Kiffin to be as supportive as he's been, knowing me for only a short period of time, he was a huge advocate of me and if I had a chance to better myself, and there's not very many coaches who are like that. I'll always be appreciative of that and the way he handled all of this.

"I'm grateful to Lane and everything he did for me and my family. Being in Knoxville for a year has been short, but like I said, the people here have been great. My family liked it, and it's just time for a new venture in our lives."

The Seminoles are playing out their final month under the tenure of Bobby Bowden before a date with West Virginia in the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day, and Gran is joining the staff of Bowden's replacement, Fisher, who has been coach-in-waiting since 2007. Fisher learned he would assume control of the team 48 hours after the Seminoles were blown out by Florida to close the regular season and Bowden, 80, announced his retirement.

Gran is Fisher's associate head coach with responsibilities including running backs and special teams coordinator. It's an opportunity Gran believes will help him further his desire to be a head coach.

"I hope it does. That was a big part in the decision-making process," said Gran, who also praised Kiffin for his support in interviewing for the head coaching vacancy last month at Memphis. "I'm going to go down and be recruiting in an area that I'm going on my 19th year. So you know, I've always wondered in the back of my head all these years when I've recruited against Florida State and Miami and Florida, you say, 'Gosh, what would it be like to put one of the Big Three?' I think you go into recruit's homes and you're already maybe in the top three, sometimes top two. And sometimes they grew up being that fan.

"I just think it's a good fit. They didn't have a special teams guy, either, and then the recruiting aspect of it. It just all seems to be a good fit."

It's hard to argue Gran wasn't a good fit during his brief tenure in Knoxville. Though no longer on the team, Nu'Keese Richardson was a Signing Day coup engineered by the longtime South Florida recruiting force. During the season, Vols tailback Montario Hardesty rushed for more than 1,300 yards �" most by a UT tailback since Travis Stephens' record-setting 2001 campaign �" freshman Bryce Brown transitioned to the college game with steady progress, more than 400 rushing yards and a 4.6 yard-per-carry average.

Tennessee's special teams, up and down much of the season, showed improvement in several areas, most notably kickoff returns and coverage. Gran utilized walk-on Devin Mathis during the final two games for placekicking duties, and Mathis was superb. Gran also secured the commitment of Michael Palardy, widely hailed as one of the top two kickers in the 2010 class.

"I think the biggest thing is just offensively, watching this offense grow, and they went from 100-something to 30-something in the nation (from 2008 to 2009). I know that's something that Lane has preached out there to everybody, that that's what this offense is going to do," Gran said of what he's most proud of for his season on Rocky Top. "He did it in the pros and he did it at USC. He's going to do it here, there's no doubt about it. So me being able to be around these types of coaches and seeing an offense develop like that was the best thing for me. Especially professionally."

But Gran wasn't just impressed with his football peers at Tennessee; the devout Christian praised UT's administrative support and commitment to success.

"I appreciate Mike Hamilton, David Blackburn and everything they've done for me," Gran said. "Those guys are as good as anybody I've ever been around. And I've said this one other time, but Mike made it a great environment to be in and made himself available and came around and talked to you. I was here a year, and I knew this athletic director as good as I've ever known one. It's neat to see what he's all about, so I'm really appreciative of those guys."

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