Keeping Up With The Kiffins

Steve O Speak

Overall I think USC made a great move by bringing in Lane Kiffin as their next head coach (especially since its a package deal with his dad). It just completely shocks me that this move was made under the radar. Of all the names that had been mentioned by USC (or rumored), Kiffin’s name never came up. While I think the Trojans might have had some bigger targets earlier, I think they ended up getting the right man for the job.

Now I know Lane Kiffin can come off a bit arrogant and had some rule violations early on at Tennessee. Which was a bit surprising since he was the recruiting coordinator at USC under Carroll, but that could be chalked up to the brainwashing he received in Oakland by Al Davis. But I think this is the right move since it gives you credibility on offense (Lane’s specialty) and defense (which is his dad’s area of expertise). This should stop the exodus of recruits that had been reopening their recruitment to USC and the current players who were transferring/entering the draft. Another advantage with bringing in Kiffin is his age (34). If he finds success and stays at USC (which could be a big ‘if’) he’s young enough to create a college dynasty there. He could coach there for the next 30 years and give the Trojans the stability they need.

It is a bit surprising that Kiffin is leaving the Volunteers after one season, especially given the state of the SEC right now. Yes the Pac-10 is gaining in prominence (though they had a pretty bad bowl season), the SEC is still the best conference in college football. And right now there is an opening to potentially bring Tennessee back to prominence in the SEC. Florida is in a state of transition right now, and Alabama is losing some of their top defensive players. Ole Miss and Georgia will have brand new starting QB’s and have lost a lot of talent over the past few seasons. LSU could be rebuilding as well. Only Arkansas and Auburn really seemed like teams on the rise in the SEC (though you never fully count anyone out), and Tennessee seemed like one or two years away from being one of the top programs again in their conference. USC on the other hand, is on the way down, as the rest of the Pac-10 rises (which could be why Carroll finally left). Cal and UCLA always can build pretty good teams, and the resurgence of Washington, Oregon State and Stanford makes the Pac-10 a very deep conference. As good as all those teams are, they are all second fiddle to the Oregon Ducks, who are the team to beat out west right now. Kiffin might have the money and prestige of USC to work with, but he will have his work cut out for him in the Pac-10.

The real winner of this deal might not be the football program at USC, but rather the players. Despite Pete Carroll and all his great assistants at USC, the Trojans have done a pretty bad job of developing their recruits into players. Now I know that sounds like sacrilege, since USC is widely considered the “NFL team in Los Angeles” and their record has been so good. But I’m not taking away their accomplishments on the college football field (though I’m quelling the myth that they could compete in the NFL), I’m just commenting on the lack of development of their prospects. Now there are a few notable exceptions, Carson Palmer and Troy Polamalu early on, and Clay Mathews Jr. and Brian Cushing this past season. But all in all, USC players have been major disappointments when it comes to the NFL. Running backs who can’t read blocks, receivers who can’t run routes and defensive players who are just completely lost. I think that will all change with the addition of the Kiffins. Monte Kiffin will bring with him an NFL style defense, and Lane I think will do a better job at developing his recruits into players.

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