The preseason Heisman Trophy candidate with the number one recruiting class on its way and a boatload of talent at the top of the depth chart placed the University of Southern California Trojans at #1 to begin this season. It seemed that no matter what obstacles were put in the way of the USC program, they would flourish anyway. However, they didn't look good in losing to the Arizona Wildcats.
And now the Trojans are 6-2 and looking down the barrel of four games against teams with a combined record of 27-5. USC can still salvage the season and go to the Rose Bowl and maybe end up with a top five ranking. But the team as a whole and I'm including the coaches - especially the coaches - didn't make the calls or plays needed to beat a team they should have defeated.
We've seen a steady diet this season of mistakes, like turnovers and penalties. In fact, the men of Troy are the most penalized team in all of Division 1 football. Where is the coaching? Why isn't the squad getting the message? As a former player - at multiple levels - I can remember mistakes costing us dearly the next week in practice. And we suffered as a team, not individually. You learn quickly never to make a mistake that incurs the wrath of your fellow teammates.
Execution has been poor too. For instance: What has happened to the Trojan secondary? The defense was supposed to be strong in the back seven but it was the front four who have shined most of the year despite being thin and inexperienced. The corners and safeties have not been a cohesive unit all season.
Universal breakdowns at all levels makes you wonder about the USC program. And what is with the supposed leading Heisman Trophy candidate heading into 2012? Why is Matt Barkley so inconsistent? I've watched him throw ball after ball right into the ground. Or worse, with plenty of blocking and time to throw the ball, Barkley will throw it right into the waiting arms of a defensive player. What the heck is that all about?
As I said before, mistakes are not acceptable. And to be #1 in penalties is atrocious. Careless turnovers with fumbling and interceptions can be corrected over time with proper coaching. As can out of control shoddy and inconsistent play by supposed great players.
It's been said of Trojan head coach Lane Kiffin that he is a mastermind at game-planning as well as recruiting. This is true for the most part. He has the #1 class of recruits next year even though he's limited in scholarships. But when teams have time to adjust during games, Kiffin's pattern of sticking with the game plan gets them in trouble. Is he being stubborn? Is his lack of changing on the run a result of him still being a relatively young coach? Kiffin still insists he made the right calls at Arizona (source - L.A. Times).
Some critics argue Kiffin's inability to change and adjust is due to his sometimes snappy and irritably juvenile ways and this immature demeanor has choked the talent from developing at USC.
This isn't a huge manifestation on my part as we've all pretty much known his volatile and at times destructive behavior from the past. But I've a sneaking hunch that someone knew this all along and let it go. This person figured he'd let Kiffin either mature and develop into a great coach or implode as Kiffin's been known to do. That person? Athletic Director Pat Haden.
Kiffin was actually hired right before Haden came into his job. Many around the Trojan family admitted that Kiffin wasn't Haden's guy. But Haden wasn't about to fire a new guy who took a program on the downswing with heavy penalties and then put the blame on that young coach. He would wait. Kiffin and the team came on strong last season which was Kiffin's second year so it was a watch and wait scenario.
If Kiffin pulled out another great year this season, Haden looks good for not allowing differences in their personalities get in the way of success. But those circumstances aren't unveiling themselves. The team isn't playing to its talent level - even someone with the most basic of knowledge in football would know that coaching can be the problem when this occurs.
Haden knew this could and likely would happen. But he really couldn't do anything about it.
So now, the pressure pushes inward and outward on Kiffin and the USC Trojans. They play the Oregon Ducks this Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. This could be ugly or Kiffin can make some adjustments that will change the course of his standing. If Kiffin can put his ego and stubbornness in his pocket for the sake of the program, he will be here for some time to come. If not, the team will fall apart and something like a Las Vegas Bowl loss and losing season will mark Kiffin for the hot seat, with 2013 being a do or die type season for the 37 year old coach - who may be sent packing … by the guy who knew this time was coming.
Sources - University of Southern California
Daryle lived in Los Angeles Ca. most of his life and has been a longtime fan of USC and the Pac-12, having closely followed the Trojans since he was just a youngster. Fight On!
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