Kiffin short-term fix, long-term danger for Trojans

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Within an hour of Lane Kiffin’s shocking announcement that he’s leaving Tennessee to return to Southern Cal, Scott Wolf of the LA Daily News announced that assistant coach Ed Orgeron was already working in Heritage Hall, likely chasing down Trojan recruits that were waving in the wind. Meanwhile, across the country WATE-TV in Knoxville reports that Oregeron was heard using the phones at UT to call committed recruits, offering them scholarships to USC before the deal to head to Southern Cal was even finished.

And so goes Lane Kiffin’s roller-coaster career. The youngest coach in major college football just got handed the keys to one of the nation’s premiere football programs, with his resume’s main bullet points being:

* Fired after 20 game and being called a “flat-out liar” by Raiders owner Al Davis.

* Committing six NCAA violations while going 7-6 in one season at Tennessee.

* Father is best friends with Pete Carroll.

Word began spreading at the AFCA Convention after Kiffin was seen huddling with his agents after sprinting out of an SEC meeting. A few short hours later, Kiffin’s contract with Southern Cal was complete. His hasty departure was met by widespread outrage in Knoxville, where students burned mattresses and swarmed the athletic department’s building, hoping to block Kiffin’s departure from campus. They also took to “The Rock,” a famed boulder on campus where students paint messages, filling it with disparaging comments and vulgar expletives as a sendoff to their departing coach.

Kiffin will be announced as the new head coach at a press conference tomorrow at Heritage Hall, introduced by athletic director Mike Garrett, along with his father and defensive coordinator, legendary NFL coach Monty Kiffin, and defensive line coach, recruiting dynamo Ed Orgeron. It’s been reported that the trio will be joined by current UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow, which would be the closest replica to the Trojans glory days as possible.

The hiring might be the best tonic to relieve Trojans’ fans worries and to stop the short-term bleeding that came with Pete Carroll’s surprising decision to go to the NFL less than a month before National Signing Day. Predictably, players were ecstatic about the news of Kiffin’s return to Southern Cal.

“It’s great news,” starting quarterback Matt Barkley said. “I remember meeting Kiff way back on the recruiting trail when I was a freshman.”

“This is really good,” running back Mark Tyler said. “I talked to him and Sark all the time when I was coming in. This is really good.”

Recruits will see coaches familiar with the inner-workings of theTrojan dynasty, hand-picked by Carroll as his protege when he came toUSC in 2001. Kiffin’s staff — led by the hard-charging Orgeron — will put a full court press on the fourteen committed recruits, and likely will gun just as hard after many of the top-flight recruits that Tennessee already has committed.

While the short-term might have everybody happy, the Trojans find themselves with a coach long on bluster and short on results. If the goal of hiring a Carroll disciple was the goal, then the search party found what they wanted. But make no mistake, a Beatles cover band isn’t the Beatles.

Kiffin may be good enough to save a recruiting staff, but eventually he’ll have to live up to the standard Pete Carroll set. Even worse, the decision to hire Kiffin is a slap in the face of the NCAA, an organization that finally weaved its way through four-years of roadblocks and wrong-turns on its quest to get to the truth behind USC’s sporting empire. Will the NCAA look at Kiffin’s hiring — the most rogue coach in college football — as a big F you?

We already know that Mike Garrett missed on his first targets — Mike Riley, Jack Del Rio, and probably a few others. The first time that happened, it netted him NFL castoff Pete Carroll and nine years of college football supremacy. Now he’s hoping to re-engineer those results, hoping Carroll’s former assistants will reach the same heights as their former leader.

While the decision might have been the perfect one to weather the current recruiting storm, it’s also spitting in the face of the organization that controls USC’s ability to survive. While the hiring of Kiffin and company might end up winning the Trojans the first Wednesday in February, they might have sealed their fate with the NCAA. 

Kentucky QB Patrick Towles to transfer

Patrick Towles

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles will transfer, he announced in an Instagram post Sunday afternoon.

Towles leaves school as Kentucky’s sixth-most prolific passer, completing 427-of-759 passes for 5,099 yards with 24 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.

Once compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Towles’ career peeked in a 2014 game with then-No. 1 Mississippi State, as he completed 24-of-43 passes for 390 yards with two touchdowns in a 45-31 loss to the Bulldogs.

But Kentucky stumbled down the stretch, starting 5-1 and finishing 5-7, and Towles stumbled through a 2015 campaign in which he threw nine touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

He’d been passed by freshman Drew Barker by the end of the season, and threw only four passes in a loss to Louisville on Saturday.

A junior, Towles will complete his political science degree in December and be eligible for immediate playing time at a new destination in 2016.

Penn State fires offensive coordinator John Donovan

Penn State football practice, Sept 9, 2015

Penn State has fired offensive coordinator John Donovan, the program announced Sunday.

“I have tremendous respect for John and the work he has put in the last five years,” head coach James Franklin said in a statement. “I wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

Donovan originally hooked up with Franklin when the two were at Maryland, then coordinated his offenses at Vanderbilt and later Penn State.

Despite playing with what many project to be a future first-round pick in quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Penn State ranked 101st nationally in scoring, 108th in total offense and 80th in yards per play.

Penn State dropped its final three games of the regular season and averaged only 14.6 points in its five losses.

Purdue retains head coach Darrell Hazell, fires both coordinators

Markell Jones
AP Photo

It’s never a good thing when a head coach has to fire both of his coordinators on the same day. Of course, it’s never a good thing to be 6-30, either.

Both are realities at Purdue, as the Boilers announced Sunday head coach Darrell Hazell will return for a fourth season in 2016, but offensive coordinator John Shoop, defensive coordinator Greg Hudson and defensive line coach Rubin Carter will not.

“I appreciate the efforts of each of those guys over the last three years,” Hazell said in a statement. “They are quality men who are well respected by their players and their peers, and I am disappointed that things didn’t work out better. But I believe that in order to turn around this program, we need to make some significant changes and move in a different direction at those positions.”

Purdue, 2-10 in 2015, ranked 115th nationally in yards per play and 112th in yards per play allowed.

Virginia Tech announces Justin Fuente as head coach; Bud Foster to stay on as DC

Associated Press

Justin Fuente is officially Virginia Tech’s new head coach. A day after reports linked the two parties, the Hokies made the match official by announcing the 39-year-old as their new head coach on Sunday afternoon.

“Justin is a very impressive individual who also happens to be one of the brightest offensive minds in college football,” Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock said in a statement. “He elevated Memphis to unprecedented heights. His recruiting philosophy is progressive and comprehensive. Coach Fuente has displayed tremendous talent in evaluating players and developing young men as they strive to reach their full potential. Simply put, Coach Fuente exudes all the qualities that Hokies hold near and dear. We are excited to officially welcome Justin Fuente as the leader of the Virginia Tech football program.”

Fuente went 26-23 in four years as Memphis’s head coach, but his success runs far beyond a simple won-loss record. After going 7-17 in his first two seasons, Fuente guided the Tigers to a 19-6 mark in 2014-15, which included a 15-game winning streak, a No. 13 national ranking and a win over rival Ole Miss within that run.

Simply put, it was the absolute peak of modern Memphis football.

And now Fuente is tasked with taking Virginia Tech to new heights. The Hokies dominated the ACC throughout much of the 2000’s, taking conference crowns in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2010. But as Florida State and Clemson have risen, Virginia Tech has fallen.

After posting 13 top-25 finishes in 14 seasons, the Hokies are set to conclude their fourth straight campaign outside the national rankings, going just 16-16 in ACC play over that span.

The offensive numbers state exactly why Fuente was hired, and what he must do in Blacksburg; Memphis ranks seventh nationally in scoring offense and eighth in passing efficiency, while Virginia Tech sits at 64th and 59th, respectively.

The cupboard is not bare, though. Virginia Tech is in the midst of a 23-year bowl streak, and Fuente has already secured one key commitment — longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster has agreed to stay on staff.

“I’ve been privileged to work for a legendary coach who always did it the right way,” Foster said. “I enjoyed that chapter and the success we’ve had, however, I am equally excited for the next chapter and working for Justin. Justin and I share a vision for the future of our program. After spending time together, I’m convinced he’s the right person to continue building on the standard we’ve established at Virginia Tech. I’m truly looking forward to working with him and supporting him.”

Clearly, Babcock and the VT brass believe, a Fuente offense and a Foster defense are what the Hokies need to catch Clemson and Florida State.

Now it’s Fuente’s job to make that happen.