Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 6/8/13
When Lane Kiffin abruptly announced his departure from Tennessee to take over the vacant position at Southern Cal, the Volunteer Nation experienced a collective jaw-drop. From the fans perspective, the thought was how could any coach want to leave UT for any other position? But Kiffin had a connection to Southern California. He had lived there for years and had coached there under Pete Carroll for five years before being offered the Raiders head coaching job in 2007. Kiffin knew he wanted to be the head coach at Southern Cal at some point. So much so, that during his hiring process, he made then Tennessee athletic director, Mike Hamilton aware that should the position become available, he would pursue it. In hindsight, it seems laughable that Tennessee would even consider turning over their tradition-rich program to someone who made it clear there was at least one other place he would prefer to be. Still, this was happening during Pete Carroll's amazing run at Southern Cal. A time when it seemed remote that anyone but Carroll would be coaching USC for many years to come. After the 2009 season Carroll suddenly bolted to the NFL. Shortly after, began a host of NCAA allegations against his program at Southern Cal. And, as young Lane had promised his UT boss, when the opportunity presented itself, he jumped. Year one in Southern Cal produced an 8-5 record as the program dealt with NCAA sanctions. In a time of limited scholarships and beginning a two year ban on post-season play, the record wasn't welcomed but was excused. In 2011, Kiffin's team finished 10-2 and the recruiting heated back up. Not only had they endured but they seemed to have thrived, even with the challenges of probation. In 2012, USC would again be eligible to compete for conference and national titles. When their Heisman candidate quarterback, Matt Barkley announced he was coming back for his senior year, the team and fan-base adopted the saying that 2012 would be about "unfinished business". Soon, the national media fell in love with the Trojans and their unfinished business slogan and the articles and talk began. By the preseason, A.P. had Southern Cal ranked No. 1 in the nation. Several publications and services followed suite and Southern Cal was ranked in everyone's top five. Little attention was paid to just how big an issue the NCAA restrictions had created with depth, especially on the lines. Everyone kept pointing at 2011's 10-2 record as proof this team was too strong for the probation to make a difference. Only a few writers and analysts pointed out that three of the previous season's 10 wins were by a single score or less. In addition, their defensive line was losing three starters. Of those, one was a first team All Pac-12 and number one draft choice defensive end, Nick Perry. Two other starters from the offensive line, including first team All Pac-12 left tackle, Matt Kalil were also gone. When you looked closely, this team appeared to have depth issues on the lines and the linebackers, though good, were very young. The Trojans were still a very good team but not national championship caliber. Southern Cal started the year fine. After a hard fought 14-21 loss at Stanford, they were 6-1 through their first seven games. As is often the case, the depth issues came home to roost in the last half of the season. USC limped to the regular season finish, losing four of their final five games. They took a 7-5 record into their bowl game versus Georgia Tech. There, they met a Yellow Jacket team who was happy to be playing a bowl game. Southern Cal played like they were disappointed in their bowl, losing 7-21 to finish the year at 7-6. Coming into the 2013 season, the media talk is all about Lane Kiffin being on the hot seat. There is speculation that it will take at least nine or 10 wins just for him to keep his dream job. Gone is all-world quarterback Matt Barkley, along with the fan-favorite team slogan of "unfinished business". Gone is defensive coaching legend, Monte Kiffin, who quietly resigned in an effort to take some heat off his head coach son. Also gone is all the media national championship spot light. This year, USC will have to develop one of the younger quarterbacks to replace Barkley, who ended his college career a bit early due to injury last year. That will be a challenge but Kiffin's staff is good with quarterbacks. In addition, the scholarship numbers are back up. And thanks to great recruiting, talented players are in place to create depth. The offensive line returns all five starters, though left tackle junior Aundrey Walker's play is being questioned. If it is determined he isn't the answer there, one of the talented back-ups will be plugged into the line. Expect USC to rely more on the run game this season and expect senior Silas Redd to have a big year as a result. New defensive coordinator, Clancy Pendergast is good at what he does when he has talent to work with. Southern Cal has plenty of talented defensive linemen and Pendergast is going to use that strength to line up in a 5-2 this year.Expectations aren't as high at USC this year. In fact, the grumbling about Kiffin seems to have them even lower than deserved. Last year, USC seemed to repay all the good luck they had on the field in 2011, as their luck ran all bad regarding injury and depth. The 2013 Trojans are a better team than many think. Kiffin's single season at Tennessee, along with his 10-2 year at USC, is proof he can coach. Young Lane and staff will take this talented team and make a serious run at a Pac-12 title game birth. If Kiffin fails and is fired this year, there are many people around Knoxville who would say that's Karma. His brash attitude while there, along with leaving the team in a lurch during recruiting season will never be forgiven. Regardless if Southern Cal makes a significant turn around and even wins the Pac-12 this year, many good folks in SEC country still wish to make it clear that they don't want Lane back. By the way, did Monte ever sell that house?
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