Assistant head coach Monte Kiffin ponders how to craft USC's defense (Source: Yardbarker.com)
With all of the hullabaloo that the NCAA’s sanctions for USC has caused, one major point seems to have fallen through the cracks: the USC football team is actually going to play football this season.
While there most likely won’t be a BCS bowl, or any other bowl, to play for in January, the Trojans will still suit up on Saturdays for 13 regular-season contests over the course of the fall semester. And some fans still actually care that the team meets some success on the gridiron.
After having to deal with a mediocre 2009 campaign that resulted in a 9-4 record, the USC fan base isn’t exactly confident that the team can turn it around. After all, Pete Carroll’s gone now, and the shifty Lane Kiffin is now in control.
But none of these factors really spell doom for the program. The problem last year was a sorry output on defense, and that’s something they’ll need to fix to reestablish a winning attitude in 2010.
While USC’s defense was solid toward the beginning of the season, any semblance of containment was out the door by the end of the year. That deficiency was adeptly personified by Toby Gerhart for Stanford and the tandem of Jeremiah Masoli and LaMichael James for Oregon. A problem with personnel, a problem with coaching, and a problem with motivation all contributed to the lackluster performance.
Going into 2010, it won’t be an easy fix. Defensive standouts Everson Griffen and Taylor Mays are gone, and few of the recruits Kiffin wrangled will line up on the defensive side of the ball. Furthermore, defense in every sport is a concept that is proportional to passion, effort, and grit.
As the sanctions loom large, will the Trojans’ corps of defenders display the willingness to lock down opposing teams’ offenses? It’s a legitimate question. USC does have one thing going for it to that effect, though.
Gone is the era of Pete Carroll’s laissez faire approach to the game. In is Kiffin’s iron fist. Along with it comes defensive mastermind Monte Kiffin, the head coach’s father, and the intimidating Ed Orgeron, who is equally brilliant in planning defensive schemes.
Both of these new coaches should have an instant impact on a rather fresh squad of defensive players right from the start. There won’t be any tolerance for dogging it anymore, even if the stakes are apparently nonexistent. The storied program has a history to maintain, and the new coaching staff should do a superb job at policing that history.
While USC may not have the full spirit of its fans behind it, at least to this point, there are at least two overseers making sure years and years of greatness don’t go to waste.