USC’s discipline problems are a red (or, cardinal) flag

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USC managed to have a record-setting day yesterday against Arizona. Receiver Marqise Lee hauled in 16 receptions for 345 yards and a pair of touchdowns, good enough to break school and Pac-12 records. Matt Barkley threw for almost 500 yards. And, yet, the Trojans lost to the Wildcats 39-36.

Inexplicable, right?

Seeing as there’s an explanation for just about everything, not entirely. There are some things that immediately stick out looking at the preseason No. 1 team now sitting at 6-2 and in the middle of an unexpectedly scrappy battle for a Pac-12 South championship. Depth has been and will be a concern for USC because of NCAA sanctions. Matt Barkley has three games this season where he’s thrown multiple interceptions. If all else fails, blame Lane Kiffin, right?

But there’s one stat that continues to haunt the Trojans with Halloween quickly approaching: USC is dead last in the country in penalties per game with 82 total for 677 yards. That’s just over 10 penalties a game for 85 yards a game. Against Arizona, USC had 13 for 117 yards, though it should be pointed out that the Wildcats had 14 of their own for 129 yards. In USC’s loss to Stanford earlier this season, the Trojans had seven penalties for 73 yards (Stanford had eight penalties for 68 yards).

Yeah, ugly. That’s not something you expect from a team with that much talent and that much experience in key areas. Blame Kiffin for play calling all you want, but a lack of discipline like that is definitely on his shoulders. In games decided by more than one touchdown, USC is 6-0. In games decided by a touchdown or less — you guessed it, 0-2.

Mistakes are magnified in close games, so it’s no wonder that the Trojans have dropped a pair when they needed to play more fundamentally sound even though their opponents have played mistake-prone football as well. If USC was able to cut those penalties in half, perhaps the Trojans would still be undefeated and in the BCS championship discussion.

Interestingly enough, USC’s next game is against Oregon, a team that also ranks among the worst in penalties per game. But giving the Ducks any sort of help has already proven lethal to eight opponents this season.

Ex-Alabama WR’s suit against Lane Kiffin, FAU dismissed

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So much for that.

In March, Antonio “A.C.” Carter, a former Alabama wide receiver, filed a lawsuit against new Florida Atlantic head coach and former UA offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, FAU and the state of Florida.  The suit claimed that Kiffin deliberately misled him regarding a job on the FAU football staff in order to benefit from his family relationship with a prospective recruit.

Thursday, the Associated Press has reported, Shelby County (Ala.) Circuit Judge Lara Alvis dismissed Carter’s case.  As the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, it cannot be refiled.

Carter claimed that he was told by Kiffin earlier this year that his hiring as assistant strength & conditioning coach for the Owls was a “done” deal.  He and his wife quit their jobs based on Kiffin’s assurances and moved to the campus, where Carter subsequently helped Kiffin and the Owls in recruiting.

However, after National Signing Day, Carter was told he would not be hired as he had not passed a background check.  Carter had two unspecified prior minor misdemeanor charges on his record, one of which he claimed the prosecutor refused to pursue more than seven years ago.  This turn of events came after an unnamed former four-star recruit with whom Carter had a personal relationship had already signed his National Letter of Intent with FAU.

In his first season at FAU, Kiffin has the Owls, which went 3-9 each of the past three seasons, at 3-3 and tied with Marshall at 2-0 in the East Division of Conference USA.

Report: Oregon State paying search firm up to $200k to find new head football coach

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We’re all in the wrong business.

Earlier this month, Gary Andersen abruptly stepped down as Oregon State’s head football coach.  While cornerbacks coach Cory Hall was named interim head coach, the football program is on the hunt for a permanent replacement.

To aid in that search, OSU has hired the search firm of DH International, Inc.  And, according to information obtained by The Oregonian, that Chicago-based company could potentially get paid for its efforts.

DHR International, Inc. will conduct the search for a fee that “shall not exceed $200,000,” although Oregon State redacted the value of each fee installment in its response to a public records request.

The newspaper also wrote that “[athletic director Rick] Barnes… previously worked with DHR International when finding a new athletic director when he left Pitt for OSU.” It was DH International that also recommended Barnes for the Pitt job.

Alabama WR Donnie Lee Jr. charged with domestic violence, dismissed

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That didn’t take long.  At all.

According to WBRC-TV in Tuscaloosa, Donnie Lee Jr. was arrested early Thursday morning on one count of third-degree domestic violence.  It’s alleged that a verbal confrontation turned physical and resulted in his girlfriend sustaining unspecified injuries.

From the television station’s report:

Police responded to a domestic call in the 900 block of 12th Street around 1 a.m.

The arrest report states there was a verbal disagreement between Lee and a female he was dating. The disagreement resulted in a physical altercation and caused injuries.

Lee is — or was — a senior walk-on for the Crimson Tide.  He suffered a torn ACL during summer camp earlier this year, making it an easy decision for the football program to dismiss him from the team, which they did shortly after word of the situation surfaced.

“Donnie Lee Jr., a walk-on who has not been participating in team activities since a knee injury in August, has been dismissed from our football team and is no longer part of our program,” a statement from head coach Nick Saban began. “This behavior will not be tolerated from anyone and is not representative of our football program.”

Phil Fulmer can feel Butch Jones’ hot-seat pain

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With each passing week, the heat underneath Butch Jones‘ coaching seat only intensifies. One former Tennessee head coach, for what it’s worth, can feel the pain of a man who many feel will join him in the ex-UT coach’s club sooner rather than later.

Phil Fulmer, who played his college football for the Vols, was the head coach at his alma mater from 1992 to 2008, finishing with a 152-52 record, nine double-digit win seasons, two conference championships, six division titles and one national championship. Despite that success, Fulmer was fired following a 5-7 2008 season.

Butch Jones, in the midst of his fifth season at the school, has a 33-24 overall record and a 14-21 mark in SEC play, including an 0-3 start this season. The Vols have yet to place higher than tied for second in the SEC East under Jones, one of myriad factors that have him facing the firing squad at season’s end, if not before.

Asked this week about the storm of criticism enveloping the beleaguered coach, the former coach commiserated with one of his Rocky Top predecessors.

“I understand exactly where he is,” Fulmer told the Citizen Tribune of Morristown, Tenn. “It’s a tough time for him. …

“Nobody ever promised anybody that every day is going to be good. Everybody has difficulties, it’s just that in athletics, and particularly at a place like Tennessee, it is so exposed.”

When asked about quality replacements should the trigger be pulled on Jones, Fulmer told the paper “I wouldn’t begin to go there.”

“There’s so much football to be played and that’s not my responsibility anyway,” Fulmer said, adding, “My hope is that the players will run out, and make a good year out of it.”

For the record, the Vols are 56-51 and are on their third head coach since Fulmer was fired. That’s the worst 10-year stretch, winning percentage-wise, for the football program since the early 1900s.