We continue our bye-week roundtable discussions with a look at the season’s biggest surprise to date. Joining us today is the always lovely Lisa Horne, formerly of Fox Sports. Oh, and no, none of us thought losing to Stanford was the biggest surprise. Here’s what we did say:
Trenise Ferreira (@TreniseF_RoT):
The biggest surprise through four weeks of Trojan football has to be Morgan Breslin, the silent warrior who lets his play speak for him. Breslin came to USC from Diablo Valley Junior College in Northern California, and with a ton of accolades to his name: in 2011 he made the JC Athletic Bureau All-American first team and J.C. Grid-Wire All-American first team, the Super Prep JUCO 100, and was named to the JC Athletic Bureau All-State Region II first team Defensive Player of the Year and was the All-Golden Gate Conference first team Defensive Player of the Year for the second year in a row. In 2010 and ’11, he led California junior college athletes in sacks and tackles for losses. For a long time, he was a UCLA transfer, but someone got him to flip, and that person knew exactly what they were doing in wanting him to anchor USC’s D-line.
With Devon Kennard missing the season due to injury, Breslin was tasked with rising to the occasion, and through four games, he has not only answered the call but he has completely blown people away. We didn’t know much about Breslin before the season started but in no time at all he has made a reputation for himself. His play has definitely helped mitigate the loss of Kennard and if he keeps it up, he could easily earn himself NCAA D1 All-American Honors.
Breslin by far has been the most exciting player to watch so far, and that’s saying something when the offense touts Matt Barkley, Marqise Lee, Curtis McNeal, Robert Woods and Silas Redd.
Alicia de Artola (@PenguinofTroy):
The defensive line, specifically the newcomers. When USC jumped in and stole JUCO commit Morgan Breslin from UCLA, most people thought it was a good move to fill depth on a Trojan defensive line that was lacking just that. Turns out they stole a diamond in the rough. Breslin leads the team in sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (9.5). He has been a nightmare for every opposing quarterback and offensive line this season. Freshman Leonard Williams has also surprised by not only grabbing a starting spot on the line, but by being among the top performers. He has four sacks this season, behind only Breslin. I don’t know anyone who saw this kind of production coming from these newcomers.
Lisa Horne (@LisaHorne):
Actually, the biggest surprise has not come from the players— it has come from head coach Lane Kiffin.
Kiffin appeared to have settled down from his tumultuous ways. In an interview with CBSSports’ Gregg Doyel, Kiffin agreed he was “an idiot” while he was coaching at Tennessee. Everything appeared to be going swimmingly well this year but then Kiffin got petty over a local beat reporter asking about a player’s injury that occurred during a game—that reporter was initially banned (but later reinstated) from practice for two weeks. According to USC’s “new media policy,” reporters may not ask about injuries suffered in practice. Alrighty then.
Two weeks ago a reporter asked Kiffin the dreaded injury question after practice and Kiffin left the media scrum in a huff. The LA Times has now decided to not send their reporters to both USC and UCLA practices. For the amount of money both Jim L. Mora and Lane Kiffin are making, a terse “no comment” is a lot more of an appropriate response to questions they don’t want to answer. They’re in LA. Handle the media like Big Boys. It’s part of the job.
Michael Castillo (@Michael_RoT):
To provide some variety here, I’ll actually take a stab a little further. I think the biggest surprise could be USC’s gradual departure from tradition and the fact that no one is making a big deal of it this time. For a school so entwined with tradition, and a fan base that foams at the mouth at the idea of black jerseys, USC is taking more and more baby steps to modernity and it’s surprising that’s gone so unnoticed. A year ago, black socks were a big deal for the Trojans. This year, they’re wearing cardinal and gold socks and have face masks with gold flakes sprinkled within the paint, and the fans have been rather mum. Dennis Packer is gone and the ‘game experience’ crew at the Coliseum have had a laundry list of questionable decisions, from temporary Audi luxury suites covering up the Peristyle end to a pregame video with graduated players, and no one has said a thing. Is it simply that football is more important this year than last year because of the bowl ban? Were the socks only a hot button topic last season because the team virtually played 12 exhibition games? Who knows. Either way, the traditionalists have either been drowned out by modernists, or they’re busy calling for Lane Kiffin’s head or missing Tom Malone.