When Pete Carroll took the Seattle Seahawks head coaching job, a spot that “came out of nowhere,” the USC Trojans knew a viable replacement would need to come fast. An up-and-down 2009 season saw the Trojans gut out a victory against No. 8 Ohio State before losing to unranked Washington and ultimately losing their Pac-10 Championship hopes with a loss to Oregon.
The disappointing year was capped off with an ugly loss to Toby Gerhart and Stanford and a lackluster win over Boston College in the Emerald Bowl.
Carroll then bolted for the Seahawks job despite holding on to one of the best jobs in the nation, a top incoming recruiting class, and an up-and-coming sophomore quarterback in Matt Barkley. Carroll, always looking for a challenge, took the job and left the Trojans without their head coach and offensive coordinator, taking Jeremy Bates with him as well.
Little did Carroll know that his job change would only be the second biggest surprise of the coaching carousel week. It was announced Monday that former USC coordinator Lane Kiffin had agreed to become USC’s new head coach. The former head of the Tennessee Volunteers lasted just 14 months in Knoxville before bolting for the top spot at the school he once ran the offense for.
With names like Jack Del Rio and Kirk Ferentz being linked to the Trojans, Kiffin comes as somewhat of a shock. However, despite the uncertainty of Kiffin and his controversial comments while at Tennessee, he is the right man to take over the USC Trojans and lead them back to the promised land, a national championship.
Despite being the head coach of the Trojans for less than 24 hours, Kiffin is already assembling one of the better coaching staffs in the nation. His father and defensive genius, Monte Kiffin, will follow his son and run the same Tampa-two defense that became so powerful in Tampa Bay and Tennessee. Known for their defensive prowess over the course of Carroll’s term, the elder Kiffin will keep the Trojans at the top.
The other big story of Kiffin’s short term is the potential signing of Norm Chow as offensive coordinator. Chow led the Trojans’ offense from 2001-2004, including the 2003 AP National Championship and the 2004 BCS Championship. His stint with the Titans was successful, and if Chow leaves rival UCLA for the Trojans it is sure to stoke the Los Angeles rivalry even more, something Kiffin is sure to be happy about.
Ed Orgeron returns to the Trojans as associate head coach, recruiting coordinator, and defensive line coach. Orgeron was named the National Recruiter of the Year in 2004 and has a storied past as a fantastic talent evaluator. He is sure to add a great mind to Kiffin’s staff.
Speaking of recruiting, Kiffin has plenty of it and comes in at a perfect time, with National Signing Day just three weeks away. In his first year of recruiting with the Volunteers, Kiffin brought in a top-10 class and had one of the top classes again in 2010 before leaving.
The question regarding Carroll’s departure was whether or not some of his own top-10 recruiting class would look elsewhere. With the addition of the energetic and fun-to-play-for Kiffin, those recruits now seem safe. In fact, the real question is regarding Tennesse’s former commitments and whether or not they will look elsewhere to play their collegiate ball.
Kiffin overachieved in his first year with the Volunteers, leading them to a 7-6 record and an invitation to the Chick-fil-A Bowl. While his coaching resume isn’t the greatest and somewhat of a question mark, the staff around Kiffin and the change of scenery is something the Trojans have to look forward to.
The new scene Kiffin is arriving at is not all fun and games, however, as the Trojans are currently under an NCAA investigation with alleged violations during the Reggie Bush years, when Kiffin was an assistant on staff. Making the situation at USC even shakier is Kiffin’s history during his short tenure at Tennessee.
In the year he was with Tennessee, the school reported six minor NCAA violations, including the mentioning of recruit’s names on the radio, Twitter, and Facebook accounts. Three of Kiffin’s players were also charged in an attempted robbery on campus, including the infamous Nu’Keese Richardson.
The standout wide receiver was the center of attention when Kiffin claimed Florida’s Urban Meyer was calling Richarson on his official visit to Tennessee. Never shy to speak his mind, Kiffin will have to make sure he stays the course at USC, where he is sure to be under the spotlight.
Even though Kiffin has had controversy in the media and is somewhat of an unknown on the field, he adds a brand new dimension to the Trojans football team. His youth, energy, and knowledge is something both current players and recruits can relate to, and it should result in a healthy relationship at The University of Southern California.