It was announced on Sunday that offensive coordinator and running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu will not be returning to USC in 2013. According to an ESPN report, USC has decided to "go in a different direction." More from USC head coach Lane Kiffin:
"As we continue to evaluate all facets of our program, including the organization of our staff, we made the decision to go in a different direction at this coaching position," Kiffin said. "Kennedy Polamalu is a good coach, a good person and a good Trojan. We wish him and his family the best."
Since the Trojans' 7-5 regular season ended last November, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has resigned, linebackers coach Scottie Hazleton left for the defensive coordinator position at Nevada and defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders was relieved of his duties. Sanders, it should be noted, was called "the best secondary coach in the nation" by Kiffin last season, according to the LA Daily News.
The reported dismissal of Polamalu sent shock waves through the Trojan community, a community which had already been reeling from a series of decommitments from USC's class of 2013. Why Polamalu? He was well respected and a great recruiter. The running backs unit, while very thin last year, wasn't one of the problem areas on the team—the defense primarily was.
And the play-calling. It was at times too conservative and predictable, especially on 3rd and short, in the red zone and inside their opponent's five-yard line.
But despite holding the title of offensive coordinator, Polamalu was not calling the plays for the offense—Lane Kiffin was. That paper title held by Polamalu, however, does look good on a resume and will help with potential employment somewhere else. Defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron also held a paper title (defensive coordinator) because the general consensus was that Monte Kiffin ran the Trojans' defense.
So perhaps USC was paying a lot of money to both Orgeron and Polamalu for paper titles but it is now at the point where it actually needs that big money to pay off. Orgeron is one of USC's best recruiters and the defensive line actually exceeded last season's expectations; Orgeron is probably worth every cent USC pays him so he was kept on while the school hired Pendergast.
What does the flurry of staff changes signify?
Since USC is a private school, it doesn't have to disclose actual salaries for its coaching staff but with Polamalu's salary now freed up, a "real" offensive coordinator could be hired. One who actually calls the plays on the sideline.
Kiffin has already replaced his father Monte with Clancy Pendergast. The biggest defensive change coming is presumed to be a switch to the 3-4 defense as opposed to the Tampa/Cover 2 defense favored by the elder Kiffin; Pendergast ran the 3-4 while he was with the Kansas City Chiefs and Cal. There won't be a lot of USC fans too terribly upset with this change because USC floundered against both running and passing teams.
Kiffin appears to be addressing the team's biggest concerns with the hiring of Pendergast, but the offensive coordinator position has to be filled shortly. It's not going to sit well with Trojan boosters and alumni if their beloved Kennedy Polamalu is the scapegoat and Kiffin is still holding the clipboard.
Remember, Polamalu and his extended family are Trojans.
Polamalu played fullback (1982-85) at USC. His nephew Troy played safety at USC and is now with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Troy's wife is a USC graduate as well as her brothers: Alex Holmes played tight end at USC and the Miami Dolphins while Khaled Holmes played center at USC and just recently earned his Master's degree while awaiting to be selected in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Lane Kiffin graduated from Fresno State. He's a Bulldog. And a converted Trojan, which is not quite the same thing.
Spring practice is right around the corner, and if Kiffin is still calling the plays when USC holds its spring game on April 13, there may be more angst in store for the cardinal-and-gold faithful.