BOCA RATON — In the first months of the Lane Kiffin era, the coach making the biggest impact may potentially be one who isn’t technically a coach.
Monte Kiffin’s official role is as a defensive analyst – a seasoned presence in the football meeting rooms who can make suggestions.
“He doesn’t coach scheme or anything with them; he’s more off the field in a mentor role and talking to [the players] in general about football,” Lane Kiffin explained after Saturday’s practice. “It’s great for our coaches too because he can’t coach our players really schematically, but he can coach our coaches.”
Monte is an ideal option given his experience as an NFL assistant for more than 30 years. As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator for more thn a decade, Monte pioneered the Tampa 2 defense and won a Super Bowl in 2002 under Jon Gruden.
The head coach of North Carolina St. for three seasons, Monte joins sons Lane and Chris, the defensive coordinator, on FAU’s 2017 staff. Monte also worked alongside Lane at both Tennessee and Southern California, the latter of which was as the assistant head coach from 2010-12.
Now at an age where many would call it quits and settle into retirement, Monte is still going through the motions and still trying to work a defensive unit into shape. Rather than push them in the same workouts that made the Tampa 2 so deadly with the Buccaneers, Monte is pushing them mentally, attempting to use over half a century of coaching to his advantage.
One specific element that Kiffin has tried working into his film sessions is the comparisons between what they’re doing and what the NFL stars these players have grown up watching and using in video games – players such as Seattle Seahawks All-Pro safety Kam Chancellor – do.
“He’s given us a lot of great pointers on how to play in coverage and relating it to some of the teams in the NFL,” safety Andrew Soroh said. “How they play and it’s basically the same thing as what we’re doing. If they can do it, why not us?”
Safety Jalen Young, who also has been working with the senior Kiffin in the film room, made his own feelings on his new tutor clear. To Young, Kiffin is “the GOAT,” an acronym for Greatest Of All Time.
“He’s an all-time great and it gives you a lot of confidence knowing that you have the best here,” Young said. “In the film room and meeting rooms, I’ve gotten to pick his brain a bit. He gives a lot of information on our techniques and what we should be doing.”
Monte’s presence is helping more than the defensive backs. Linebacker Jacob Douglas explained that while the two hadn’t had a one-on-one session, he’s still learning what the longtime assistant is trying to teach.
“When he teaches, because he mostly works with safeties, and he talks to them, I can learn from them just by listening,” Douglas said. “He’ll still help out, even when [Lane and Chris] ask questions.”