Lane Kiffin Has Much to Answer for at 2013 Pac-12 Media Days

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistJuly 25, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 24:  Head Coach Lane Kiffin of the USC Trojans walks away from Max Wittek #13 and Cody Kessler #6 as they warm up before the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 24, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Like Lucille Ball after her shift in the chocolate factory, Lane Kiffin enters the 2013 season with some 'splainin to do.

The fourth-year USC coach has never much enjoyed media days. He's sort of the Grinch of the Pac-12, sneering at questions and giving off a generally stern attitude. He seems like he'd rather be somewhere, elsewhere, anywhere in the world but here.

That was back when his team was good. At media days 2012, Kiffin answered questions about title aspirations and the prospects of Matt Barkley winning the Heisman. If there was a time for him to be jolly, last summer was it—and he still wasn't.

At media days 2013 on Friday, Kiffin will face a much different line of questioning. The Trojans were one of the most—if not the single most—disappointing teams in football last year, slogging to a 7-6 record instead of contending for the BCS.

In turn, the offseason has been one of change—change Kiffin will need to address in Culver City.

Clay Helton has been promoted to offensive coordinator, but speculation (and history) says that role might just be nominal. Kiffin likes to call his own plays, and even after turning what should have been a top-10 offense last year into No. 27 (per Football Outsiders' F/+ ratings), he's doubtful to relinquish that control.

But that's still a question he'll have to answer. "Who's calling the plays, Lane?" "And if the answer is you, what, exactly, was the nature of Helton's promotion?"

While they're on the subject, Kiffin will also field inquiries about his quarterbacks.

Starting under center for USC is hallowed ground, like playing shortstop for the Yankees or center for the Lakers. Three young and touted prospects (Max Wittek, Cody Kessler and Max Browne) have competed for the job, but little information about that competition has been disseminated to the masses.

"When will you make an official announcement?" "If the season started today, who would get the nod?"

Most of all, though, and the most to Kiffin's chagrin, he will need to face questions about the "hot seat." After last year's 7-6 debacle, most writers didn't expect to have a chance to ask him about that sizzling chair in July 2013. They expected it to burn him up long before that.

But he's here, and he'll need to answer questions about pressure and job security and learning from last year's mistakes. He'll need to show humility (for once) and admit that last year's failings—at least in part—were his own fault.

He'll need to have a lot of answers at his disposal, because even more than usual, a large number of questions demand his response.