David Reaves: Will He Or Won't He Go To UT?

David Reaves: Will He Or Won't He Go To UT?

The final whistle of the regular season has sounded a dreary note for USC. Now another battle will be going on behind the scenes in the heart and mind of USC's David Reaves. With the naming of his brother-in-law Lane Kiffin as the next head coach at Tennessee imminent, Reaves must decide whether he will leave Columbia to join Kiffin in Knoxville, or stay with his mentor Steve Spurrier.

David Reaves will have a momentous career decision to make in the next week or so – should he stay in Columbia under the tutelage of his mentor Steve Spurrier, or should he go to Knoxville and join his brother-in-law Lane Kiffin, who is expected to be named the successor to Phillip Fulmer at Tennessee early next week.

While the primary focus on Saturday will be on the annual palmetto state grudge match between the Gamecocks and the Clemson Tigers, the short and long-term implications of a decision by Reaves will potentially affect both the 2009 recruiting class by both SEC schools, and recruiting battles between the two schools well into the future.

GamecockAnthem.com weighs the pros and cons of both sides of the argument, examining not only the consequences for Reaves, but for at South Carolina as well.

Steve Spurrier has long been on record that he is all for his assistant coaches to take other positions at other schools, on one condition – that it is a step up for them in the career, such as moving up to either a head coaching position or a coordinator position. He also has made it clear that he is not in favor of lateral moves, where a coach leaves to take basically the same position they had under Spurrier at another school. There are exceptions, of course. Tyrone Nix went home to Mississippi as the new defensive coordinator at Ole Miss, and South Carolina has benefited by hiring Ellis Johnson in his place, who has clearly improved the defense this season.

Lane Kiffin is known for his offensive expertise, the same side of the ball that Reaves would be on should he join Kiffin in Knoxville. Kiffin spent six years at Southern California, and eventually became the Trojans' offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator. His efforts helped lead USC to back-to-back national championship games in 2003 and 2004. He then was named the youngest head coach in the modern NFL era at 31 when Al Davis hired him last season to coach the Oakland Raiders. Davis fired Kiffin on Sept. 30 of this year. Now 33, it would almost seem unfair for Kiffin to say that his brother-in-law David, who will turn 30 on December 12, is too young to be named the offensive coordinator at an SEC school, but it is unlikely that Reaves would be named offensive coordinator for the Vols.

Should he accept a lateral move to be the quarterbacks coach and/or the recruiting coordinator at Tennessee, it would violate Spurrier's unofficial guidelines he sets for his assistants. Reaves has steadily gained more titles and responsibility under Spurrier. He spent two seasons as a graduate assistant under former coach Lou Holtz before being given a full-time assistant position Holtz's last season.

Reaves was retained by Spurrier when he came in after the 2004 season. Reaves was given the duties of recruiting coordinator in February 2006. After spending two seasons assisting Spurrier in coaching the Gamecock quarterbacks he was handed the full-time quarterback coaching duties in the spring of 2007.

To be fair to Reaves, Spurrier is well known for the amount of time he spends "coaching up" his quarterbacks, leaving Reaves with less responsibility than his title fully implies, and Reaves has been known to be chafing to do more than carry Spurrier's clipboard. Though Reaves is grateful for all Spurrier has done for him, that may be motivation enough for Reaves to accept a new position elsewhere. And the prospect of working together with family cannot be overlooked. Kiffin's wife, Layla, is Reaves sister.

While who else may become part of Kiffin's offensive staff is as yet unknown, his defensive staff already appears underway. It starts with Lane's father Monte Kiffin, 68, currently the defensive coordinator of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and is currently the longest-tenured assistant coach in the NFL and is considered one of the top defensive minds in the NFL. He's been an NFL assistant for 26 years and is in his 13th season running Tampa Bay's defense. The elder Kiffin signed a contract in January for a reported $2 million per year with the Bucs, equaling what his son is expected to get paid as the new head man of the Volunteers, and also about what Spurrier makes at South Carolina. His defenses have ranked in the top 10 of the NFL in 10 of the last 12 seasons, and his defensive philosophy is considered one of the most influential in modern college and pro football.

Kiffin is also expected to hire on the defensive side of the ball former Ole Miss head Ed Orgeron, who was on the Southern Cal staff with Kiffin from 2002-04.

South Carolina's biggest concerns with a Reaves defection would be in the area of recruiting. Reaves has developed a well-earned reputation as one of the top young recruiters in college football. His first class as recruiting coordinator in 2007 Gamecock was a consensus top-10 class and was regarded as the most highly touted recruiting class in school history. The 2009 class currently being recruited is already a very solid class, and has the potential to equal or surpass the 2007 class.

Perhaps the top player still uncommitted that USC is pursuing is ironically a player who decommitted from Tennessee after Fulmer's resignation, running back Jarvis Giles. The Gamecocks have struggled rushing the ball, and the speedy Giles is considered a must-get for the Gamecocks. And Reaves is his recruiter of record for USC. Should he switch sides to USC, there would be serious concern by USC that he could sway Giles back into the Tennessee fold. Giles told the Knoxville News-Sentinel on Friday after the news of Kiffin's impending hire broke that "not sure of what effect Kiffin's hiring will have on his recruitment." Giles is from the Tampa Florida area, and has already taken his official visit to Knoxville, so he could not come back at UT's expense.

Should Reaves join Kiffin at Tennessee, the recruiting trio of the two of them and Orgeron would be very intimidating indeed. Kiffin helped land former college stars Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart while at Southern Cal, both of whom later became Heisman Trophy winners. In his three years as USC's recruiting coordinator, the Trojans recruiting classes were ranked No. 1 in the nation each season. Orgeron, currently the New Orleans Saints defensive line Coach, recruited some of the best classes in Ole Miss history while he was head coach at Mississippi.

Reaves played his high school football in Columbia at Spring Valley, making the SC capitol his hometown. So will David Reaves leave to join family and a new team, or will he remain loyal to Spurrier and the vision he has helped build here? Gamecock and Vol fans will be watching with great interest in the week to come.

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