CFB: New USC coaching staff will use some old tactics, especially if Chow returns
By Sam Farmer
Los Angeles Times
These aren’t your big brother’s USC Trojans.
Then again, maybe they are.
If history is a guide, the school’s back-to-the-future coaching staff will lean on some familiar strategies, with a few twists here and there.
A peek at what people will see next season:
No gimmicky schemes here. No wildcat. No spread offense. The Trojans should look — or at least try to look — a lot like they did in the Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart years.
Lane Kiffin runs a pro-style offense. That’s lots of three- and five-step drops by the quarterback, lots of play-action, lots of throwing.
The ground game is essential, too, and there are usually two backs — a tailback and a fullback — in the backfield. It’s a pounding running attack.
“It’s going to be very similar to what you see most NFL teams do and what we saw Pete Carroll do over the last several years,” said Mike Mayock, scouting expert for the NFL Network. “Keep in mind Lane’s got a quarterback, and he knows it, so he’s going to want to throw the football and recruit receivers.”
If UCLA’s Norm Chow returns to USC, the Trojans will be adding a brilliant play-caller who does an excellent job of recognizing favorable matchups and exploiting them, or making the right adjustments on the fly to create those mismatches.
What’s more, Chow is an exceptional quarterbacks coach who brought along Palmer, Leinart, Philip Rivers, Ty Detmer and many more.
Lane’s father, Monte Kiffin, developed the Tampa-2 defense when he was with the Buccaneers, and that helped the franchise to its only Super Bowl victory. In its simplest form, the Tampa-2 is a four-man front with three linebackers and four defensive backs, with two safeties deep and creating a “shell” forming the last line of defense.
There are all sorts of variations and creative blitzes — the elder Kiffin specializes in those too — but the basic idea is to deny the big play and force offenses to dink and dunk underneath to move the ball. The more nickel-and-diming done, the more likely those offenses are to make a mistake.
“What we do is you try to make sure that they have to go the length of the field,” said former Tampa Bay linebacker Shelton Quarles, who now works in the Buccaneers’ personnel department. “It’s hard to go the length of the field against what we do and not make a mistake. And then when you make a mistake we’re able to capitalize on that.”
Quarles said Monte Kiffin will recruit versatile defensive players and linebackers who might be on the smaller side but are adept at blitzing, dropping into coverage, and making plays all over the field.
“When you have a 3-4 defense you have linebackers that are typically bigger and covering less of an area,” he said. “When you have linebackers that have to play the Cover-2, they have to cover more field and have to be able to run.”
Lane Kiffin frequently ruffled feathers when he was at Tennessee. He won’t be getting a congratulatory note from his old boss, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, either. But one Tennessee resident who has watched Kiffin closely over the years — Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Theismann — thinks the young coach will probably take a more low-key approach at USC.
“When Lane was in Tennessee, he said a lot of things and took a lot of shots from people, but nobody was firing at his football team,” said Theismann, an NFL Network analyst who lives in Memphis. “He created an interest in that team. He won’t have to do that at USC. He can just go back and coach.
“I feel very confident that he doesn’t think he needs to do the same things at USC that he needed to do at Tennessee. At Tennessee, he basically took the approach, ’Hey, look at my program! Look at what we’re trying to do!’ At USC, he’s going to be the keeper of the castle and do the things that he learned to do when he was there before.”