Open Practice, Return of Desserts … Does USC Just Need an Attitude Adjustment?

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIOctober 3, 2013

Apr 13, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans defensive line coach Ed Orgeron leads players Ryan Henderson (14), Devian Shelton (17), and Anthony Sarao (56), and Demetrius Wright (24) and Kevin Greene (81) on the field before the spring game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Famous Californian and 40th American President Ronald Reagan once said, "You can tell a lot about a fellow's character by his way of eating jelly beans."

Maybe that's why USC, which under former head coach Lane Kiffin didn't have desserts at team meals, lacked the character, identity and gusto to succeed on the field.

Maybe it was the displaced desserts that ultimately led to the ugly midseason firing of the Trojan head coach.

Interim head coach Ed Orgeron is at least putting that theory to the test. The former Ole Miss head coach immediately made a number of changes to the USC program in his first few days in charge, including reintroducing desserts to the menu.

That move was a chart-topper for the Trojan players, and many others voiced their approval for the sugary renaissance in Los Angeles as well:

Orgeron talked about the desserts during his post practice presser Wednesday as per USC's official YouTube page, dropping the now-famous quote, "You feed a lineman a cookie, he's happy."

He went a little deeper, revealing his goal as the new coach: to make players happy and ultimately change the culture currently around the USC football program.

"It's a change," Orgeron said about USC's desserts. "I wanted to have a change. I think if we would have went the same direction, and we kept on doing the same thing, nothing changes."

Change is the obvious goal after USC's poor start. The Trojans are already 0-2 in Pac-12 Conference play and lost both contests in contrasting but embarrassing fashion.

The first loss came to Washington State, in which they mustered just seven points against a team that won only one conference game last season. The second defeat came to Arizona State. In loss No. 2, USC surrendered 62 points, 612 total yards and let the Sun Devils mount a 28-point run in the third quarter.

That sealed the fate of Kiffin, who was fired in the LAX parking lot when the Trojans returned from Tempe, as reported by Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News. 

While many coaches at many programs could withstand that rough start, it simply wasn't acceptable for Kiffin in a USC program expected to rule the Pac-12 and compete for national titles.

Photo Credit: FuelOnSC Instagram
Photo Credit: FuelOnSC Instagram

When Orgeron was named the interim coach, he was decisive about reversing the stringent atmosphere that was present while Kiffin was in charge.

Obviously, that philosophy simply wasn't working. 

So the new coach brought back sweets and also reopened practices to the media. Reporters were noticeably happy and Orgeron seemed pleased to air the new aura surrounding USC football.

"I missed y'all," Orgeron joked as to why he opened his doors to the media. "No, it's good for the team, it's good for USC. I like the exposure. It's part of USC, it's part of what coach (Pete) Carroll built with us: the energy, the excitement, the good and the bad. Hey, we are what we are. Come see us."

Orgeron coached under Pete Carroll at USC in the early 2000s and wants to bring his loose, fun-loving flavor back to the program.

So far, the players have responded favorably. Quarterback Cody Kessler told Gary Klein of The Los Angeles Times, "You've got to love it. You've got be excited to have that in your head coach."

Running back Silas Redd agreed, highlighting the differences between Kiffin and Orgeron to AP writer Greg Beacham (via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

"I had no clue that (a coaching change) was coming after that game," Redd said. "We're going to have fun, though. This is a fun team, and today was exactly that. They're just two different types of people. Coach Kiffin is more strict. Coach O is more loose."

Coach O also talked about Redd when he relayed USC's injury updates to the media, another change from the Kiffin regime. While Kiffin had a policy not to talk about injuries, Orgeron filled the public in on the status of the banged-up Trojans, including Redd and star receiver Marqise Lee.

He revealed that both Redd and Lee might be in question for next week's contest with Arizona.

When it comes down to it, the optimistic and relaxed ambiance in Los Angeles is an excellent start, but he'll need it to translate on the field through the play of Redd, Lee and Kessler.

Orgeron identified inconsistency as the major flaw for the Trojans early in the season.

"Inconsistency and not believing," Orgeron said. "One time the defense plays well, one time the offense plays well, but if we could just put it all together and believe and play as a team and learn how to compete every down. Start fast, come out in the third quarter with a little fire, man and have fun and play."

USC's on-again, off-again performance this year have shown that the team isn't lacking talent, but perhaps was just wound too tight by Kiffin's tight temperament to play to its potential.

Now that the Trojans know that they have a table of desserts waiting for them on the other side of the tunnel, just maybe they will muster up that fire that Orgeron is hoping for and turn in a strong finish to 2013.