Friday, June 11, 2010

How Kiffin could resurrect the Trojans.

2010 - The sanctions come down. No post-season play. A reduction of 30 scholarships over three years. Juniors and Seniors can transfer without eligibility penalties.

That seems pretty tough.

So now, I'm Lane Kiffin. I'm looking at my program, and thinking about the future, not the present. Forget the present. It doesn't exist. Even if USC wins every game, our Trojan helmets are tucked safely away in the managers' stockroom by December. What do I do?

I'm forthright with my Juniors and Seniors. I tell them: "Guys, you got screwed, and I'm sorry. You're not at fault for what's happened, but I'm not going to suffer. If I were you, I'd look for another school to play for."

Why should Lane do that? First off, he's under no pressure to succeed immediately, because that just isn't possible. The post-season is off the table. So, he can go through a couple of very tough "rebuilding" seasons. If he does it correctly, he can position his team for a title run in their first season off suspension.

Think about it: USC has an incoming freshman class that is arguably the best in the nation. The Trojans were fairly young last season, getting many freshman and sophomores playing time. So, you still have a youthful team there. By adopting a philosophy of playing the youngest kids first, you'll give them valuable playing time. Sure, the Trojans may lose games, but the kids will be learning much faster than they would on the practice squad.

Then, as Team Kiffin goes into homes for recruiting visits this year and next, he can tell the players about how he's preparing USC for a return to glory. And, he can tell them that they had better be ready to strap on a chinstrap when they get to LA, because they're going to be playing. He doesn't have the luxury of finding "diamonds in the rough" in his recruiting over the next few years. He has to find top-flight talent that could be All-Conference in their freshman year. There's no margin for error when you can only sign 15 kids.

Over the 2010 and 2011 campaigns, Kiffin's Trojans are middling at best. He goes 7-6 in 2010, and then improves to 9-4 in 2011.

Fast forward - 2012.

Matt Barkley is a senior, and has been leading the team for three years. Alongside all of those other freshmen who arrived in 2009 and suffered a disappointing 9-4 season, followed by the sanctions, he has a serious chip on his shoulder. Two seasons of playing from "bottom-up" has created deep experience at all positions. Kids who are sophomores and juniors on this team have been getting game-day experience since day 1. The incoming freshman class of 2012 will be one of the more highly-talented, as they've been sold on the idea of coming out of the gates with a title. So, you'll see some quality young players getting their own experience in the tail-end of blowouts.

Unfortunately for Kiffin, in the BCS title game, he faces an SEC team with a full allotment of scholarships for its own 4 and 5 star players. The SEC schedule has made grizzled veterans out of even its first-year-starters. In short, the depth of the roster and the SEC schedule has created a behemoth that even his careful planning and strategic depth-charting can not overcome.

But hey, at least they won the Pac-1X again.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Sure it's easy. He's going to get all five stars because it's easy to find them, woo them, sign them, and make sure none are busts or get injured. All the while hiding the fact they won't be bowling for half their career and the Texas', Fl's, and Alabamers can promise them 4 yrs of Nat'l Title shots. Easy, peezy.
And don't say "I never said it would be easy." your plan of getting the top talent...I'm sure no other coach Ever thought of that. Genius I tell you.