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USC Football: Could Lane Kiffin Actually Be an Elite Coach?

Elliott PohnlFeatured ColumnistSeptember 30, 2010

USC Football: Could Lane Kiffin Actually Be an Elite Coach?

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    Lane Kiffin has made a name for himself without winning anything that matters.

    But before you begin dismissing him as a selfish, immature coach who can't seem to keep his name out of the news, it might be too early to completely write him off as a fraud.

    Kiffin has led his USC team to a 4-0 start and has a chance to stay perfect this weekend when struggling Washington comes to town.

    What will it take for him to get a little respect?

    Here's a look at 10 reasons Lane Kiffin will emerge as an elite coach in the coming years ahead.

No. 10: He Will Get Every Chance to Succeed

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    When USC decided to hire Lane Kiffin, they took a huge risk.

    Tabbing a man who once literally talked himself into a recruiting violation to resurrect a program beset by scandal didn't seem like the smartest move at the time.

    Frankly, the jury will be deliberating on Kiffin's ability to stay out of trouble for years to come.

    Ultimately, USC wanted a coach that could keep the program in the spotlight and restore the luster on the field, even with the postseason ban and scholarship reduction limiting the opportunity for success.

No. 9: His Coaching Skills Will Improve This Season

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    With 67 players on scholarship and a defense that has looked vulnerable even to inferior opponents, Kiffin has his work cut out for him.

    Kiffin will need to lean on the strengths of his team, mainly Matt Barkley and a solid running game with a host of capable backs able to carry the load.

    With a small margin for error, Kiffin's coaching abilities and patience will be put to the test.

    2010 might provide the learning experience he needs to finally earn some respect.

No. 8: He Will Have a Successful 2010 Season

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    The easiest way to measure exactly what Kiffin is learning will be to watch as USC keeps winning games.

    Despite an alarming lack of depth, especially on defense, the Trojans still have more talent than many Pac-10 teams and should have the offensive firepower to stay in every game this season.

    Even if the wheels fall off later in the season with trips to Arizona and Oregon State on the schedule, there seems to be a great chance the Trojans will go into the October 9 game at Stanford at 5-0.

    Could underdog USC turn the tables and upset the rising Cardinal for a change?

No. 7: Kiffin Always Gets What He Wants

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    Whether it's because of the coaching accomplishments of dad Monte or because of his stubborn personality, Lane Kiffin always seems to get his way.

    He will do whatever it takes to win, whether it means bending the rules to land recruits or luring coaches out of the NFL ranks to join his staff.

    And along the way, he will make just about everybody dislike him.

    In the end, Kiffin's bullying behavior could secure his legacy as one of the more successful--and hated--college coaches.

No. 6: The Ability to Stay In The Spotlight

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    No matter how bad things get at USC, the traditionalist nature of college football won't let the Trojans fade from prominence.

    Having a lightning-rod like Lane Kiffin on the sidelines will provide even more insurance that will not happen.

    No matter what happens on the field, Kiffin always finds a way to stay on the national radar.  Last season, his Tennessee team remained in the headlines despite being mediocre.

    The ability to draw attention to himself and his program certainly helps him in recruiting, and becomes more important than ever given the scholarship reductions at USC.

No. 5: Kiffin Can Hang His Hopes On Matt Barkley

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    Matt Barkley still shows some growing pains from time to time, but by this time next year there is no reason he can't emerge as the best quarterback in the country.

    With a Heisman candidate on the roster, Kiffin should be able to keep USC winning and in the headlines while stockpiling young players.

    When USC comes off probation in two years, the Trojans could easily be contenders for a BCS berth.

    That is, if the BCS still exists...

No. 4: He Gets The Most Out of His Players

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    One of the strongest indications of the true value of a coach, at any level and in any sport, is the ability to maximize the talent of the players.

    Early this season at USC, Kiffin has certainly done that.

    Last season at Tennessee, he endured trying times with constant off-field distractions and kept the team competitive.

    Under Kiffin's watch, the talented Jonathan Crompton finally reached his potential and the Vols registered impressive wins over Georgia and South Carolina.

    Don't be surprised if USC overachieves this season and wins eight or nine games.

No. 3: Kiffin Is Stubborn to a Fault

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    Kiffin believes he knows the best way to find success, and he won't stray from his core values.

    If things go south later this season or in the coming years ahead, Kiffin won't panic.  He will simply stick with what he believes in and try to weather the storm.

    That's the mark of a good, stubborn college football coach.

No. 2: The Ed Orgeron Recruiting Project

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    As if Lane Kiffin needed any help in the recruiting game, he has Ed Orgeron pulling the strings behind the scenes in SoCal.

    The two have managed to lure recruits one way or another, and there's no reason to believe that will change at USC, even with the NCAA keeping a close watch on the Trojans' athletic program.

    The biggest part of college football is recruiting, and Kiffin's greatest strength should eventually lead to major success on the field.

    There is only one problem: he has a difficult time following rules.

No. 1: Kiffin Will Learn From His Mistakes

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Just when you think Lane Kiffin has done his last questionable act, he surprises you with another puzzling statement or action.

    At some point, he will have to grow up.

    The tense situation at USC has placed him in a culture where he will have no choice but to follow the rules.  If Kiffin admonishes other programs, his reputation will take yet another hit.

    In the end, his biggest problem has nothing to do with X's and O's.  He simply doesn't know how to handle his massive ego.

    If Kiffin finds a way to temper his bouts of immaturity, he should have no problem winning at USC.

    Who knows, people might even actually come to like him someday.  Then again, maybe not.

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