Kiffin denies knowledge of payment by Garza

Kiffin claims no knowledge of payment by former USC secondary coach Willie Mack Garza to controversial Texas scout Will Lyles while at Tennessee.

LOS ANGELES – USC head coach Lane Kiffin denied any knowledge of an alleged payment by an assistant coach for a recruit's unofficial visit during his one year at Tennessee.

Yahoo! Sports reported Monday that assistant coach Willie Mack Garza wired $1,500 to Texas-based scout Will Lyles in July 2009 to reimburse him for airfare he purchased for Temple (Texas) running back Lache Seastrunk and his mother to travel to Knoxville.

"All I can say on that, the alleged incident, I had no knowledge of (it), or knowledge of a relationship at all," Kiffin said Tuesday. "I have been and always have been committed, wherever we've been, to doing things the right way, cooperating with the NCAA. So that's all I've got on it."

Garza came to USC as secondary coach in January 2010 but resigned abruptly earlier this month, just two days before the Trojans' season opener, citing personal reasons. Sources indicated that Lyles mentioned his relationship with Garza in a meeting with NCAA investigators, leading to his exit.

Kiffin declined to elaborate on Garza's departure when asked.

The NCAA is currently investigating Lyles' ties to numbers programs, including Oregon. Seastrunk signed with the Ducks in 2010, but transferred to Baylor in August.

Injuries Piling Up
After enjoying reasonable health through the first month of the season, the Trojans were without several key players, including left tackle Matt Kalil, corner Torin Harris (shoulder), linebacker Lamar Dawson (ankle), running back Amir Carlisle (ankle) and tight end Christian Thomas (hip).

Running back Marc Tyler dressed but was limited by a bruised thigh, while defensive end Nick Perry, right tackle Kevin Graf and wide receiver Robert Woods were banged up during practice.

There could be one bright spot as linebacker Marquis Simmons said he was hopeful about returning to action this week.

The redshirt sophomore sprained his neck against Utah and has missed the last two games.

"I'm feeling great, just healing up and I'm expecting to play this week," said Simmons, who was still in a neck brace.

Troubled by Turnover Margin
Through four games, USC ranks last in the Pac-12 in turnover margin (-1.5 per game) and turnovers lost (-9 with six lost fumbles and three interceptions) while collecting only two fumbles and one interception.

Kiffin is doing everything he can to try and reverse the trend, even going as far as offering ice cream to the defense for collecting takeaways and the offense for avoiding them.

"We only give them sugar-free yogurt," he said. "They don't like that. We said they could have real ice cream. That still didn't work. Hopefully it'll turn around this week."

Arizona hasn't fared much better, with only two interceptions in four games. However, the Wildcats have lost only one fumble and haven't thrown an interception this season.

Quick Hits
-Kiffin said he is trying to redshirt corner T.J. Bryant this season. A senior from Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln, Bryant has appeared in 24 career games with 32 tackles and one interception.

-Kiffin said he has not heard from the Pac-12 regarding the three personal fouls assessed against free safety T.J. McDonald at Arizona State. Top Stories