Let me start this out by saying clearly that I have never really been a strong supporter or fan of Lane Kiffin, the Trojans' new head coach, who accepted the job after two one-year stints with Tennessee and the Oakland Raiders before that.
That said, I'm a little surprised with myself when I say that I'm generally supportive of AD Mike Garrett's decision to bring back Kiffin, a Pete Carroll assistant (2001-2006) and fan boy who ascended the ranks all the way to offensive coordinator, a position he shared with now-Washington Huskies head coach Steve Sarkissian. But, admittedly, I don't think it really has anything to do with Kiffin himself.
Kiffin will bring with him his father Monte Kiffin, who was the just-departed-from-USC Pete Carroll's mentor when Carroll coached with Monte at Arkansas in the late seventies. The elder Kiffin will run the defense, and today's reports are that USC has been working hard to bring UCLA's OC Norm Chow back into the mix to run the offensive side of the ball (Nothing has been confirmed on that front).
The staff will also include Ed Orgeron, who was responsible for recruiting under Pete Carroll, and also served as the offensive line coach for the Trojans' national championship teams of 2003 and 2004—and the BCS contenders in 2005—before leaving to take the head coaching job at Ole' Miss in 2006. He bounced around for a couple of years, but landed on Kiffin's staff in Tennessee for the 2009 season.
So the Trojans have a coach. But the head coaching vacancy was just the first in a long line of concerns that face USC and its football program in 2010 and, perhaps, longer into the future (these are in no particular order after the first):
- Most importantly, can Kiffin and Orgeron, assisted by Matt Barkley, other USC team leaders, and key recruits hold together this vaunted recruiting class?
- What will USC's meeting with the NCAA investigatory committee yield? Is USC about to forfeit wins, a championship (or two), future scholarships, and/or post-season possibilities because of improper benefits received by Reggie Bush during his time at USC?
- How is USC going to fill the holes left by Damian Williams, Anthony McCoy, Joe McKnight, Charles Brown, and other key departing talent? Who are the most likely candidates to rise and support QB Matt Barkley as the Trojans turn headlong into what seems to be a storm on the horizon?
- Can Kiffin figure out how to foster a deep respect with and from his players? It's something he was unable to do in his time at USC and will be an essential cog in the machine if he wants to succeed and make a seamless transition between him and his predecessor this season.
The real pressing question is: With a new coaching staff and significant talent turnover, how will the Trojans find the time to focus on and fix the laundry list of significant problems from the 2009 season? Penalties? Turnovers? An anemic offense?
USC is a national powerhouse and with the right pieces could be right back contending for the Pac-10 and BCS titles in upcoming years.
Does Lane Kiffin and his staff possess the cure? He didn't in Oakland. They didn't in Tennessee. Let's hope that both of those outcomes were a factor of both being one-year stints.
Chime in. What are your thoughts to the problems listed above? Do you think Kiffin can step in and take the reigns seamlessly from Pete Carroll? What will be his big sticking points?