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

Leave a comment

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. 

Former Texas A&M WR Thomas Johnson arrested on murder charge

Thomas Johnson
Associated Press

A very disturbing story has emerged out of Dallas, where former Texas A&M wide receiver Thomas Johnson sits in a Dallas County jail cell after allegedly admitting to hacking an unsuspecting jogger to death with a machete.

Just before 8 a.m. Monday, authorities say Johnson went to White Rock Creek Trail, a popular jogging trail in northeast Dallas, and randomly slashed a jogger to death. “It appears Mr. Johnson picked this victim at random. Absolutely random,” Deputy Chief Rob Sherwin told the Dallas Morning News. “He just attacked him. … It’s just very unusual. It’s quite shocking.”

Johnson then walked away from the scene in search of a cell phone. An onlooker had already dialed 911, and when police arrived Johnson allegedly told them there was a man “laying down with a sword in his head and not moving.”

“I just committed capital murder,” Johnson said and then repeated, according to his arrest affidavit. The only motive police reported was that Johnson was angry at his situation in life at the time of the slaying.

The victim, an unidentified male between the age of 25 and 35, passed away at a nearby hospital.

Johnson, meanwhile, remains in a Dallas County jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Johnson was a highly-regarded member of Kevin Sumlin‘s first recruiting class at Texas A&M. As a true freshman in 2012, the Dallas native caught 30 passes for 339 yards and one touchdown through the Aggies’ upset of then-No. 1 Alabama and then simply… disappeared. He went missing for three days in November 2012 before turning up back home in Dallas. His mother told the San Antonio Express-News last April Johnson would like to return to college football, but a return to the game never materialized.

No punishment from SEC for Bielema’s sideline interaction with Alabama player

Bret Bielema

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema will not be disciplined by the SEC office for his brief interaction with Alabama offensive lineman Cam Robinson last weekend. A video showing Bielema exaggerating his interaction with Robinson at the end of a play was reviewed by SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, and the commissioner has discussed the situation with the Razorbacks coach.

“I visited with Bret over the phone on Monday and we discussed the play that has now become widely reviewed through a brief video clip,” Sankey said in a released statement. “Football is played in an intense competitive environment and I reminded him of the need for head coaches to resolve with their own players issues that may arise, which was his intent. The unsportsmanlike penalty assessed on the play was not directly associated with Bret’s efforts to intervene at the end of the play and we are moving forward in a positive manner.”

That appears to be the end of the discussion regarding Bielema’s act. I personally think there should have been some more done here by the league’s commissioner, but we will see if Bielema avoids putting himself in a similar position moving forward.