CFB: Now all Lane Kiffin has to do is win at USC
By Randy Youngman
The Orange County Register
COTO DE CAZA, Calif. — All is well in the Land of the Trojans again, because Lane Kiffin has returned to USC to succeed the wildly successful Pete Carroll — and so far is undefeated.
Kiffin already is keeping score, mentioning that quarterback Matt Barkley has thrown 10 touchdown passes without an interception in the past three spring scrimmages.
He also jokingly pointed out he has shut out the NCAA so far this year, too.
"Been here for three months and no violations," a smirking Kiffin said Monday, eliciting loud laughter from the USC boosters who participated in the Lane Kiffin Heritage Golf Classic, a school fundraising tournament at Coto de Caza Golf and Racquet Club.
He also hasn't stirred up any controversies yet, as he did before his first and only year at University of Tennessee, when he falsely accused Florida coach Urban Meyer of illegal recruiting tactics. (His remarks earned him a swift public reprimand from the Southeastern Conference, and then he had to apologize to Meyer.)
Kiffin hasn't even ripped UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel yet, though perpetually passionate USC defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron grabbed the microphone during the live auction Monday and jabbed the coach of the Trojans' crosstown rival.
"The guy across town has been talking too much smack since Coach Kiffin came to town," Orgeron said, trying to hype a USC-UCLA game package to prospective bidders. "We've got to silence him."
Kiffin has done a good job of keeping a low profile and holding his tongue since getting the USC job, but he couldn't help himself from taking a shot at Raiders owner Al Davis, who hired and fired him, while introducing new USC offensive line coach James Cregg.
"He's been with me the last three places we've been," Kiffin said of Cregg, "and I've taken him some places no one else would want to go through. That would be the Raiders. ... No (TV) cameras here, right?"
Uh, no, just a sports columnist with a tape recorder.
That's when someone in the audience yelled, "Al can't see the TV, anyway."
And to make certain everybody could hear that insult, Kiffin handed the quipster his microphone so he could repeat his joke.
Kiffin was very relaxed and eminently entertaining while introducing his coaching staff and answering questions from his deliriously partisan audience.
He knew what to say, as well as what USC fans wanted to hear. A few examples:
On returning to USC: "At the opening press conference (when he was hired), I said this is my dream job. I think people say that sometimes, but they don't really know what they mean when they said it. I was able to say it because I was here for six years before. People talk about the Trojan family ... but until you go away from here, you don't really know what that means. It's exciting to be back. ... The day we walked into Heritage Hall, in the first 30 seconds, I knew I was back home."
On why his father, Monte, his assistant head coach, didn't participate in the golf tournament: "He was busy. He was watching every single play of UCLA's 12 games last year, before he came here today." (Yes, and UCLA is the last regular-season game on USC's 2010 schedule.)
On the indefatigable Orgeron, who also serves as recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach: "He's the heartbeat of the program. The energy and the passion that he brings every single day (is remarkable). And our kids are having the best rest they've had in years (because) if they are one minute late to a study hall, to a tutor or to a class, they have to run with this man at 5 a.m. And he's been known to have three Red Bulls before 5 a.m."
On his biggest challenge since coming back: "I would probably say to get this group of players to understand what it was like before (when USC was winning back-to-back national championships in 2003 and 2004), to understand the way players worked (then), the style they played with. There's a big difference between being confident and cocky. Back then, guys played with great confidence, and there was a swagger, but it wasn't cocky.
"It wasn't celebrating over people because you make a 5-yard gain. There were a lot of penalties that happened last year (that need to be eliminated). We want to make sure they understand this is why you win 34 straight games, why you go five straight years at home without a loss, why you have three Heisman winners in four years. That was not done on Saturday. That was done this time of year and in the offseason at 6 in the morning when you're working out. You have to do it all year round."
Those comments drew thunderous applause from his captive audience. And if Kiffin was trying to distance himself from Carroll's final years, so be it. Now all he has to do is win — win all of them — to keep everyone in burgundy and gold happy.
Like the guy in the back of the tent who yelled, "Fiesta Bowl!" when Kiffin was introduced, alluding to the national title game in Glendale, Ariz., in January.
"Yeah, no pressure," Kiffin said, laughing.