Lane Kiffin is known for making headlines, often times for the wrong reasons. He was cited for several minor recruiting violations last year at Tennessee. USC has had their share of negative media attention since the departure of Reggie Bush and the suspicious events that surrounded his parents’ home and its connection with a sports agent.
Even with the numerous allegations of possible violations from the NCAA, combined with the departure of legendary recruiter Pete Carroll, the USC Trojans still put one of the top (if not the top) recruiting classes in the country a few weeks ago.
Carroll was as good of a defensive mind that USC had ever seen, but with all due respect, Carroll does not have an entire defensive scheme named after him.
Enter Monte Kiffin, who created the “Tampa 2″ defense during his tenure as defensive coordinator for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The acquisition of his son, Lane Kiffin as the head coach was not nearly as impactful as Monte as the defensive coordinator.
If there were any questions of whether or not the elder Kiffin could translate his success to the college level, there is no doubt now. Monte’s defense at the University of Tennessee was not only one of the best in the SEC, it was among the nation’s elite, ranking 22nd in total defense and 12th overall against the pass.
Despite the loss of several key starters on defense, including four-year starter and projected first round draft pick Taylor Mays, the Trojans have plenty of talent and depth for Kiffin to work with.
The inexperience and injuries to the linebacker corps really hurt the Trojans last year, and let’s face it–they placed three linebackers in the first day of the last year’s NFL Draft. Even with the plethora of athletes that USC has, replacing three NFL players (all of whom saw significant playing time as rookies).
If there was a silver lining to the departure of Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews and Rey Maualuga did allow Chris Galippo, Devon Kennard and Malcolm Smith to get valuable experience last season. If they can stay healthy, especially at linebacker, look for the Southern Cal defense to very good in 2010, but they could be downright scary in 2011, after the Kiffins have two recruiting classes under their belts.
When it’s all said and done, it could be Monte, not Lane, that puts USC back in the hunt for a Pac 10 title and a National Championship.