When Pete Carroll was hired after the 2000 season, he made it clear that as a coach in love with the defensive backfield, he would try to make USC become Cornerback U. But it never happened. Fast forward a decade and Lane Kiffin has not only recruited the most talented USC corner since Jason Sehorn, Nickell Robey, but has his eyes set on plenty of highly-touted corners in the Class of 2013.
Under Carroll, the Trojans were far from being inept at the corner spot, but it definitely wasn’t the defensive forte. Terrell Thomas had a solid career at Troy, as did Cary Harris, and Shareece Wright put together two strong seasons. But the top flight corners either never came to USC during the Carroll era, or never blossomed into superstars like Carroll had hoped.
Although he was just a 3-Star coming out of high school in 2003, Eric Wright had a strong beginning to his USC career. Then, legal troubles derailed his stay at SC and forced him to ultimately transfer to UNLV.
T.J. Bryant was a huge coup for Carroll in 2008, as the Tallahassee native chose SC over the likes Florida, LSU and Alabama. To get a prized recruit like Bryant from the deep south was seen as a big step in the right direction towards finding strength within the cornerback position under Carroll. Yet, he finished career as a Trojan with just 28 tackles and a lone garbage-time interception, making him another disappointment at corner.
When Carroll left for Seattle in 2010, Lane Kiffin replaced him, bringing in Nickell Robey who had originally committed to Tennessee. In just two seasons, Robey’s accumulated 111 tackles and six interceptions, including a standout game against Stanford in 2011, in which the sophomore had a career high 10 tackles and a go-ahead interception against Andrew Luck in the final minutes of regulation.
Quite simply, Robey is the prototype for what Carroll had always envisioned for USC. He’s an out-of-state player with NFL talent, in addition to being a high-character player on and off the field, priding himself in covering the top receivers week in and week out. So, why is it that Lane Kiffin, an offensive minded head coach, has been the one to find a player in the mold of Robey and not Carroll?