The USC football program has gotten not just a face lift but a complete overhaul. Gone are Pete Carroll, Ken Norton, Jeremy Bates, and the relaxed, hyper-competitive environment and enter Lane Kiffin, Monte Kiffin, Ed Orgeron, and Kennedy Pola with a more intense, strict, and structured environment.
When Kiffin was hired after Carroll decided he would take the head coaching position with the Seattle Seahawks, it caused a stir for many reasons across the college football landscape. After one memorable season at the University of Tennessee, Kiffin returned to USC where he once led a high powered Trojan offense as co-offensive coordinator. He brought his father, legendary defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, with him as well as recruiting guru and uber-intense Ed Orgeron.
But in what has become typical Kiffin style, drama followed him. Tennessee accused Orgeron of trying to "steal recruits" who committed to the Vols while Kiffin and company were coaching there. At his introductory press conference Kiffin was grilled repeatedly by LA Times sports columnist TJ Simers only to have then A.D. Mike Garrett intervene. But when the dust had settled USC had another Top-Five recruiting class while still facing the uncertainty of looming NCAA sanctions due to the Reggie Bush investigation.
All was quiet until the NCAA announced that the Trojans were banned from post season bowls for two years, 10 fewer scholarships for three years and the forfeit of wins (including the National Title in 2004). Also, the NCAA allowed current Junior and Senior players to transfer to other schools while not having to sit out the year.
On July 20, Mike Garrett "retired" and former Trojan quarterback Pat Haden was hired to replace him as A.D. Haden is a straight forward, squeaky clean, no-nonsense person who will make sure that the USC athletic department and players will do things "the right way." Haden also said Kiffin is "his guy" ending any speculation that he would replace Kiffin or that he wasn't happy with the new Trojan head coach.
On September 2, a new era of Trojan football will begin when the Trojans travel to Hawaii. Kiffin already made some waves earlier in the week by suspending highly talented Freshman running back Dillon Baxter, who some say is a Reggie Bush clone, for the opener for violating team rules. Kiffin also said every position is open, meaning no one is promised a starting role and every player would have to compete for playing time. Kiffin also hired the best special teams coach in the country in John Baxter and is putting more of an emphasis on special teams, something Carroll never did.
Players such as Matt Barkley, Mitch Mustain, and Stanley Havili have taken up leadership roles. Incoming Freshmen like Baxter, Robert Woods, Kyle Prater, Xavier Grimble, George Uko, Markeith Ambles, D.J. Morgan, Hayes Pullard, and Nickell Robey all look to have bright futures as Trojans and should make an impact relativity early on.
The 2010 USC football team has many obstacles they must over come, but with the talent not just on the field but on the sidelines and running the athletic department, remain a favorite to win the Pac-10. Time will tell how Kififn's legacy will turn out, but if he continues to recruit as well as he has and gets the Trojans back to their winning ways while staying "clean," all will be well in the new Land of Troy.