Kiffin's Fingerprints All Over Rose Bowl

Tampa Bay Buccaneer Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin will be on the opposite side of the country when Texas clashes with USC in Pasadena on January 4. But his presence should figure heavily in the outcome of the BCS national title for both programs.

That's because Texas Co-Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik and Southern Cal head coach Pete Carroll are Kiffin proteges. On top of that, Kiffin's son Lane is the Trojan's first-year Offensive Coordinator. Meanwhile, former Texas Co-Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson also numbered himself among Kiffin's disciples.

"Pete Carroll, Gene Chizik and Greg Robinson were all raised by Monte," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "He's also a role model to (Defensive Tackles coach) Mike Tolleson. There's so much Monte Kiffin in this game. His ghost will be in the press box because he's all over this game. If you talk to every one of them, they go back to Monte Kiffin and that doesn't happen very much any more."

When Chizik was an up-and-coming coordinator at Central Florida (1998-2001), he frequently made the trip to the Buccaneers training facility to confer with Kiffin as well as with then-head coach Tony Dungy. Chizik was allowed to sit in on meetings and had access to game film. Kiffin played a significant part in Robinson's hiring in January, 2004. Then, Brown had never met Robinson but was swayed, in part, by Kiffin's endorsement.

"We found a perfect fit in Gene in that he had worked with Monte Kiffin, and so had Greg Robinson," Brown said. "The ideas that Greg brought in here, Gene had the same philosophy exactly."

The same philosophy but with some notable tweaks. Both incorporated Kiffin's proclivity toward the zone-blitz as well as mix-and-match coverages in the secondary. Robinson favored a bend-but-don't-break defense that prioritized containment, takeaways and minimizing the points allowed.

"The first thing Greg Robinson said when he got here is we want 'scoring defense' and 'turnovers'," Brown said. "Those were the only stats that were important to him. He didn't care how many yards they got rushing or how many yards they got passing."

In his first season at Texas, Chizik unleashed the defensive front to make tackles rather than engage blockers and channel the flow of the offense to backside support. When asked how he felt about the possibility of over-pursuit resulting in a down-lineman missing the play all-together, Chizik shrugged and said, "That's what linebackers are for."

Chizik clearly wanted more pressure on the quarterback and more sacks. (The defense was credited with 32 sacks this season and 116 QB pressures.) He has also incorporated more dime package than at any time during the Mack Brown era. Chizik relied heavier than did Robinson (and certainly more so than Carl Reese) on a blitz package, especially from the secondary. Chizik expected his DBs to provide more run support and, indeed, the leading tacklers this year are a pair of safeties (FS Michael Griffin leads the pack wit116 stops while SS Michael Huff is second with 97 tackles).

Carroll initially crossed professional paths with Kiffin at Arkansas in 1977. That's when Kiffin was the Hogs' Defensive Coordinator while Carroll was a graduate assistant. Now, Lane Kiffin is directing college football's top offense (580.3 ypg).

"They look better than they did last year at this time," Brown said of the program that rolled Oklahoma, 55-19, in the 2005 BCS national championship game.

In short, Brown has seen none of the drop-off that many anticipated when former coordinator Norm Chow signed-on with the Tennessee Titans.

"It's Pete Carroll's program, not some assistant's program," Brown said. "He's built a great program and we have to continue to do the same thing. When you win, people want to come and find out why you're winning and they're going to get your coaches. And that's okay. If anybody starts to feel like the assistant coach is bigger than the program then the program's probably not very stable."

The Horns are currently on break and travel to Los Angeles on December 28.

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