So we've had a night to sleep on the idea: Lane Kiffin is the new head coach at USC. My reaction: I think its fantastic. This has every appearance of a rushed hire that was not well thought out. Certainly, Kiffin and his "all-star" cast of assistants-uber-recruiter Ed Orgeron, Defensive guru Monte Kiffin, and, quite possibly, the return of OC Norm Chow, will be relentless recruiters. The thought that SC would have a down class this year is now out the window. Kiffin was putting together a fantastic class at Tennessee, and if he can keep most of the SC class in tact, and perhaps poach some of the UT class, as he was reportedly trying to do last night, SC will be a top class again this year. And it seems to me that's what this hire had in mind: save the class. But despite the recruiting prowess, there are many reasons to be excited about this hire if you are a non-SC Pac-10 fan.
The first thing you need to know about Lane Kiffin is that he is the biggest ass in college football. I'm guessing it won't be a week before he is needling Oregon and Washington and UCLA, his arrogant sense of entitlement think that he'll walkover all of them like its 2005. CK and Sark will be smart enough to ignore it. Neuheisel will be stupid enough to engage in it. And it will just make all of us-who were pretty ambivalent to SC under the Carroll era-pretty much hate them. SC fans will love it and call it a "swagger," failing to realize that he's a bottom feeding cretin who will be a blight on their university. You though Mike Stoops was an ass? Mike Stoops is Tony Dungy when compared to Lane Kiffin.
I know what you're saying: "that stuff is really for the fans, this hire will be judged by wins and losses." And to a large extent, that's true. But its almost universally believed that SC has probation coming up soon-for sure a loss of scholarships, and a bowl ban is a big possibility. The NCAA will be watching SC like a hawk. And not only was Kiffin the biggest ass in college football during his one season at UT, he was also a walking recruiting violation. And he was one of the key figures in the SC program during the time that the violations occurred. I have zero faith in his ability to recruit cleanly. If his SC tenure goes anything like his UT tenure, SC will be mired in probation, and Kiffin will be canned in three years.
But here's the real reason I'm excited as a Pac-10 fan-there is no reason to think that Kiffin is actually a qualified head coach. He got the Raiders job, despite no head coaching experience, because Al Davis is an idiot. Somehow, he parlayed a 5-20 record at Oakland into one of the best college coaching jobs in the land at Tennessee. His mediocre 7-6 season at UT propelled him into one of the top three college jobs in the land. His head coaching record is 5-21-hardly the slam dunk hire that many SC fans are making it out to be. He'll be a great recruiter, but we've yet to find out whether Kiffin can actually coach a game.
Further, I've even seen many SC commenters excited that Kiffin's father, Monte, will be bringing with him his Tampa 2 defense, one Conquest Chronicles user commenting that Kiffin is Oregon "worst nightmare" and "they'll be lucky to score 24 points." Pete Carroll ran cover 2 schemes with regularity while at SC, so it won't be that much of a change, other than Kiffin will likely run it even more than Carroll did. And while the cover 2 has a reputation for limiting big plays, its biggest weaknesses are misdirection, runs up the middle, and throws to the tight end-exactly the weapons that the Oregon spread is best designed to use. You could have ran anything with SC's 2008 defense and they would have been successful. But without that kind of veteran talent, the Tampa 2 is a generally undisciplined defense that a good spread option should rip to shreds.
Finally, SC fans hope that this is a "continuation" of the glory days. But SC's "glory days" are over. I expect them to be a very good team. They will compete regularly for Rose Bowl's and national championships. But the days where it's a foregone conclusion that they will win the Pac-10 is over. Kiffin will get his recruits. But he'll be competiting with Neuheisel, Kelly, Sark, Harbaugh, and Stoops, and of whom are equally relentless on the recruiting trail, none of whom are anywhere near as douchey as Kiffin, with only Neuheisel and Stoops coming anywhere in the same stratosphere. Oregon is going into SoCal and getting the speed athletes that they want to plug into the spread. Sark has all the connections down there and will be pulling talent from the area. And Neuheisel isn't the recruiting pushover that Dorrell was. SC will always have the best class in the league, but the gaps are not nearly as wide. And that regression was already happening under Carroll. There's no reason to think that Carroll-lite will be able to reverse the trend. With that lessened talent gap, superior strategy can win the day.
I don't get this hire. SC did this with the expectation of returning to the glory days, but those days are gone. At best, SC remains a good program, one that competes for conference championships on a regular basis, but not one that strikes holy terror into the rest of the league. But the downside is embarrassment, shame, and even more sanctions to the SC program. My best guess? Kiffin will not be SC's coach in four years. If his ego and shady character don't get him into trouble, his inability to meet SC fans' unrealistic expectations of replicating Carroll's success will.