As he prepares for what could very well be his last season suiting up for USC, wide receiver Marqise Lee attended Pac-12 Media Day on Friday, appearing alongside fellow team leader and linebacker Hayes Pullard and Head Coach Lane Kiffin.
Surrounded by a small gaggle of reporters, Lee spoke candidly about his head coach, even praising him for the work he has done through three seasons running USC’s football team.
One of the biggest surprises at Media Day came when Kiffin announced he will retain play-calling duties in 2013. While this may ruffle the feathers of many Trojan fans, for Lee, it’s like water off a duck’s back.
“I knew in a sense he was gonna still run the offense. He confirmed it today; y’all learned just liked I learned,” Lee said to chuckles from the media. “That’s cool with me. He called them last year and the year before that.”
It’s no secret that Kiffin’s play-calling in 2012 left much to be desired, and is partly responsible for the team’s 7-6 record last year. But he called the plays in 2011 and the Trojans went 10-2, finishing the season on a 6-1 tear.
Whatever is to come from Kiffin this year, Lee stands behind his coach.
“I would play for Kiffin until I die. Even at the next level.”
Lee said that Kiffin gets criticized often, but that he takes it in stride and just tries to make sure his players maintain a positive mindset.
“A lot of people just see the negative and the things they think he’s doing wrong. I think people see him as a young coach, and we didn’t have the season we wanted last year, so I think a lot of fans just see the bad in him.”
According to Lee however, were it not for Kiffin, he would not be the player he is today nor would he be in the position–Biletnikoff Winner, Pac-12 and USC record holder and future NFL star–that he is.
While Lee may think highly of Kiffin, he is still in the doghouse with much of USC’s fanb ase and will likely be on the hot seat until he shows sustained success.
Fans are still weary of his leadership, after a 2012 debacle that featured numerous off-the-field distractions and a lot more losses than expected from a team that was picked to win it all a year ago. In our poll, nearly two-thirds of voters said they did not agree with Kiffin keeping the play chart this season.
2013 is a new year though, with new talent, new leadership and new coaches. Lee strongly believes that USC will field a team capable of rectifying the mistakes of last season, and it starts with believing in his head coach.