USC and Coach Lane Kiffin released the season-opening depth chart late Sunday night. Though the list does not contain too many surprises, there are a few instances where you have to pause and wonder.
However, I will direct the Trojan faithful to two exhibits:
1. 2011’s 10-2 season
2. All those amazing Pete Carroll recruiting classes and teams from the mid 2000s were a product of the Orgeron and Kiffin recruiting juggernaut.
As a result, I have to give Lane the benefit of the doubt, you know?
Kiffin has so far, expertly played the hand he was dealt. We all know by now what happened. Reggie Bush. Lloyd Lake. NCAA sanctions. Blah blah blah, its old news, but USC is still dealing with the heavy-handed scholarship reductions from the NCAA.
Kiffin’s 2012 recruiting class, the first to fall under the restriction of the scholarship reductions, amounted to 17 players—only 12 of which actually count thanks to five early enrollees who count against the unsanctioned 2011 recruiting class.
OK. So how then, with this albatross around the program’s neck, has Kiffin been able to field a team that is expected to compete for the National Championship with 10 fewer players than other FBS teams? I might posit that he is a mad genius, but the ability to not just close a deal but surround himself with recruiters who are formidable in the living rooms of 4 and 5-star high school prospects (along with the allure of USC's program in general) might be the real reason.
USC’s limited depth chart is loaded with truly first-rate talent—Kiffin had the foresight to use USC’s protracted NCAA appeals process to stock the cupboard that Pete Carroll had largely left bare. Whether this was because Carroll knew the hammer was coming down or because Kiffin and Orgeron were actually the masterminds behind all those USC championship teams is largely a matter of debate. (I fall on the side of Kiffin and Orgeron, and as I said in my season preview, the addition of recruiting mastermind Tee Martin is a HUGE advantage for USC).
I’ll sum it up, because while this whole subject fascinates me, it might not be of as much interest to to everyone else. Kiffin made a brilliant move by signing 30 players in 2011 and then redshirting more than half of them. The result of this was 16 redshirt freshmen on the 2012 roster, allowing the Trojans to basically double their freshman class.
This was very very very smart (and wily) of Kiffin.
But enough of that, let’s actually look at the depth chart heading into the 2012 kickoff against Hawaii.