USC Football: 7 Reasons Lane Kiffin Will Stay off the Hot Seat in 2013
In the wake of what every Trojan fan would admit was a very disappointing 2012 football season, many of those who follow USC have passed the offseason engaging in the bashing of head coach Lane Kiffin.
The screams calling for Kiffin's job have reached a crescendo with nary a day going by where someone isn't questioning his ability to lead the Trojans in 2013 and beyond.
Of course, "Kiffin bashing" is not a new phenomenon. Perhaps the most hated coach in the United States, those who have spit venom at Kiffin are numerous and can be found from coast-to-coast.
But what is fairly new is the inordinate number of Trojan fans who have joined the bandwagon calling for his job.
Naturally, this is to be expected when a preseason No. 1 team—such as USC was in 2012—falls flat on their collective faces by posting a pathetic 7-6 record.
Now many Trojan fans are saying that Kiffin can't coach and are blaming him for everything from USC's futility to starving children in Africa.
Interestingly, these same fans were rather enamored with their embattled coach in 2011, when he led the Trojans to a 10-2 record, but that is another story.
This slide show will look at the reasons why these fans—and the haters around the country—are wrong about Lane Kiffin.
Like its coach, USC will be back in 2013, and those claiming the sky is falling for the Trojans will find a smile creeping back on their faces next season.
Here are the reasons why...
Clancy Pendergast Will Make a Difference as USC's New Defensive Coordinator
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Anyone who witnessed the Trojans' embarrassing defensive effort against Oregon in 2012 knew changes would have to be made in 2013 for USC to get back where it wants to be.
To that end, Lane Kiffin made the difficult choice to accept his father's resignation as defensive coordinator.
Monte Kiffin—a defensive legend in the NFL—simply couldn't adjust to the variety of up-tempo offenses he encountered in the Pac-12, and the result was Trojan futility on that side of the ball in 2012.
To remedy this, USC welcomes former California defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast to that same position for the upcoming season.
Pendergast has a proven track record against the spread offenses he will find in the Pac-12, as his Bears defense led the conference in total defense in his first two seasons.
Pendergast will employ multiple fronts in confronting the imaginative offenses he will face, and he will do it with better athletes than he had at Cal.
Look for USC's defense to make significant strides in 2013, which will help keep the vultures from circling Kiffin next year.
USC Will Return 15 Starters from Last Year's Team
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Yes, I know that returning a batch of starters from a mediocre team does not portend of success for the following year.
And it should be noted that the players lost to graduation or early entry to the NFL represent some of the finest players USC had to offer.
Still, the 2012 team was a model of disarray, and while the Trojans will certainly miss the likes of Matt Barkley, Robert Woods, T.J. McDonald, Khaled Holmes and others, they will still be welcoming back 15 starters from last year.
So it is not like the cupboard is bare for USC going into 2013.
And there is another reason for optimism with these returning players as will be discussed in the next slide.
USC Had a Very Young Team in 2012
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What often gets lost in the muck of last years disappointment is the fact that in 2012, USC fielded a very young team.
In fact, fully half of its starters last year were either freshman or sophomores (redshirt or otherwise), and often they performed like the inexperienced players they were.
Now with a year under their belts, look for these young players to perform next year more like savvy veterans.
If they do, they will keep their coach off of the hot seat.
Kiffin Will Avoid Controversy in 2013
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To say that Lane Kiffin has often been his own worst enemy is to state the bloody obvious.
This was especially true in 2012, where switched jerseys, omitted injury reports, under-inflated balls and animosity toward reporters were just a few of the gaffes that haunted Kiffin in the year gone by.
Of course, if USC had gone 11-1 or something like that, those miscues could have been more easily forgiven. But a 7-6 record does not buy any head coach much good will when he has given his critics so much ammunition.
So to fix this portion of his troubles in 2013, Kiffin will go back to the persona he developed in 2011, when his 10-2 record was accompanied by a personality that avoided controversy.
By removing his foot from his mouth, Kiffin will help himself stay off of the hot seat in 2013.
USC Has a Very Favorable Early Schedule That Will Build Momentum
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For a team coming off such a disappointing season, it is crucial that it starts its next season fast in order to build momentum.
This is especially true of USC, whose fragile psyche demands early success in order to tackle the more difficult games later in the schedule.
Fortunately for the Trojans, the 2013 ledger contains teams who will facilitate that early success.
Hawaii, Washington State and Boston College—USC's first three opponents—could only manage a collective 8-28 record in 2012, and USC gets two of them (Boston College and WSU) at home.
A 3-0 record entering into another home game against Utah State (11-2 in 2012) should do wonders for the Trojans. And that early season success, if built on, will help Kiffin stay out of his enemies' bull's-eye.
Kiffin Will Learn from 2012 and Make Adjustments in 2013
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Lane Kiffin's fall from grace in 2012 was both sudden and surprising.
After going 10-2 in 2011 with a Trojan team who had nothing but pride to play for, Kiffin's praises were being sung far and wide, as USC entered last year as many people's preseason No. 1.
And interestingly, it was Kiffin's maturation and coaching ability that many of those same people pointed to when tabulating the Trojans' strengths in last year's ill-fated season.
So when one is left to ponder what went wrong, naturally, there will be a focus on coaching—or in this case, a lack thereof.
But objectively, if one is honest with himself or herself, there are only two conclusions that can be drawn from last year's debacle.
Either Kiffin can't coach—which begs the question, how did he succeed in 2011—or last year was simply an aberration, a year where everything that could go wrong, did.
My money is on the "fluke" equation, and if so, Kiffin's success in 2013 will remove him from the glaring spotlight of his critics.
Trojan Pride Will Not Allow for a Repeat of 2012
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As a program, USC has had to hear about the failed expectations of 2012 and how that team turned in one of the most disappointing efforts from any squad associated with the history's sport.
By the time 2013 rolls around, USC will have had its fill of the negativity that has surrounded the program for the last year, and it will be bound by a driving desire to remove the stench of last year's failure for once and for all.
To that end, 2013 will be a year where the pride of being a Trojan will act as the sole motivation to make up for those transgressions of last year's colossal face plant.
To manage those aspirations, Lane Kiffin will focus on funneling that pride into a productive source of controlled rage and on-field efficiency.
When he does, Kiffin will have effectively removed himself from the hot seat of the post-2012 disappointment that fans have heaped upon his doorway.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
As a writer who is also an unabashed—although hopefully objective—fan of the program, I have seen first hand the anger that has been leveled at Lane Kiffin.
And having supported Kiffin through my writing, I also have been the object of some derision for that position despite also having acknowledged the justification for those anti-Kiffin sentiments.
To be certain, he has brought much of this animosity upon himself both on and off the field, and for this, Kiffin needs to accept responsibility. At the same time, he needs to embrace the changes that will right the USC ship as the program moves forward.
For Kiffin, the path is clear.
Only significant improvement by his team will quiet the naysayers, and that needs to happen in 2013.
Because what is certain is this: If he fails do so this year, those who are calling for his job now will have their wishes come true in 2014.