Reaves' switch to Vols remains rocky subject

10/29/2009 12:00 AM

10/28/2009 10:36 PM

Over the course of a 10-minute interview Wednesday, Tennessee quarterbacks coach and former South Carolina assistant David Reaves several times referred to his new boss as "coach Kiffin."

Lane Kiffin, the Vols' first-year coach, also happens to be married to Reaves' sister, Layla.

Is it so formal on Rocky Top that the two are not on a first-name basis?

"It's a business setting, so when we're in here in the office working it's, 'coach Kiffin," said Reaves, laughing. "And when we're out of the office and around each other with our family, he's still my brother-in-law."

It was Reaves' interest in learning a new offensive scheme, in addition to working alongside a family member, that prompted him to leave USC after seven years last December to join Kiffin's inaugural Tennessee staff.

"As soon as his brother-in-law was announced, I said, 'I know you're going there. You should go there,'" USC coach Steve Spurrier said.

Reaves took Gamecocks strength coach Mark Smith with him to Knoxville, although Smith was fired without cause five months later and received $300,000 to walk away.

Smith never had time to sell his home in Blythewood, where he lives with his wife and two sons.

Meanwhile, Reaves ruffled a few feathers in South Carolina when the former Spring Valley quarterback talked to a few players who were committed to USC, including South Pointe defensive backs DeVonte Holloman and Stephon Gilmore, about Tennessee.

Ex-USC and NFL tailback Duce Staley had Reaves on the sports talk show Staley co-hosts on 107.5 The Game, and told him, "Your name is mud here."

Reaves, who was the Gamecocks' recruiting coordinator for three years, said Wednesday he was looking for players.

"I don't think it was anything like that, as far as guys that were committed to South Carolina or guys that were not committed to South Carolina," he said. "We got in here in December and put our staff together. And we tried to go recruit the best players that we could all over the country."

Reaves also went after Tampa tailback Jarvis Giles, who decommitted from Tennessee after Phillip Fulmer was pushed out. Giles, Holloman and Gilmore all ended up at USC.

Kiffin defended Reaves, saying it was standard practice for coaches on a new staff to lean on their recruiting connections from their previous jobs.

"I would have been disappointed in David or Eddie Gran, who came from Auburn, or Lance Thompson, who came from Alabama, if they didn't compete to see if kids were sure about their decision. That's recruiting," Kiffin said.

"I can't imagine doing it another way when you come in your first year and hiring coaches, that there's so many good players out there that you don't try to go get. I don't know another way to do it."

Spurrier said there is another way to approach it.

"(Reaves) started recruiting all the guys committed to us, which is sort of - I mean, it's not against the rules. But sometimes you usually let somebody else recruit 'em. (That) is more the ethical thing," Spurrier said. "But it's no big deal. All fair's in recruiting, just about, as long as you don't break the rules."

The 30-year-old Reaves landed a top-10 recruiting class in 2007, and said he was the main recruiter for two big prospects in that class - quarterback Stephen Garcia and defensive end Cliff Matthews.

"I put seven years in Columbia working for South Carolina and giving everything I had. I'm happy that those guys are playing well," Reaves said. "Obviously, building a personal relationship with those kids and their families in the recruiting process, you get close to them. I think we put together some pretty good recruiting classes back-to-back. It's starting to show on the field."

Reaves said he was fortunate to work under Lou Holtz and Spurrier, and believes he left on good terms with Spurrier.

"Coach Spurrier's great. He's a true professional in everything he does. He does a phenomenal job with the offense and I'll respect him 'til the day I die."

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