One of those doubters was wide receiver De'Von Flournoy, who is hoping he can finally get his long-awaited chance in 2012. It appeared he was on such a path, until the coaching change.
After playing in four games in 2009 under Carroll, Kiffin did something the four-star recruit thought unthinkable. Kiffin sat Flournoy out the following year.
"I was really shocked, like, 'coach what? You're redshirting me?'
"And he brought me into his office, he said ‘We want to get you faster, we want to get you stronger, we want to get you into the playbook because you're too inconsistent and we want you to know everything,'" Flournoy remembered.
That meeting was more than a wake up call. The 6-0, 185-pounder realized there was no time to mess around, no time to take off and no more time to sit out.
"From that point on I knew I had to lock in, and I had to focus on every single receiver position and know it, no questions," he said.
But even though Flournoy locked in, Kiffin focused on another receiver instead in Marqise Lee. Lee made the plays when it counted in 2011, and had a breakout freshman season. Flournoy doesn't resent Lee for his achievements, though, he just hopes he can have some of his own.
"Everyone on the team, we want to win as a team. So I never hate on another player, it actually pushes me, and shows me that I'm not in the position where I wanna be.
"Some guys are just unhappy in their own situation, I mean I'm here, I'm not happy in my situation but I want to compete."
As the newly anointed veteran of the Trojans' 2012 receiving core, Flournoy assessed his position group by stepping into the shoes of Lane Kiffin. Flournoy actually said he'd choose the same starters if he was the head coach of the Trojans.
"I would go with the guys that have done it before, like Robert Woods or Marqise Lee. They know what to do in a game situation so I would lock with those as my two starters. And from then on I would take spring ball evaluations, and fall camp evaluations, to pick my next go to guy," Flournoy describes. "And with us having as stable receivers as we have, it seems like we'd be able to rotate a lot of people in for a lot of different things."
Flournoy simply wants to be one of those rotators. Fortunately for him, there's more opportunity now than in years' past. The new coaching staff knows his talent now and he knows the playbook now. The redshirt junior will be the oldest of the Trojans' receiving core, after the departure of Brice Butler to San Diego State and Brandon Carswell to graduation.
Carswell created something of a niche for himself as a talented blocking receiver. Flournoy gets advice from him to this day; he's even trying to gain 15 pounds to possess a similar strength as Carswell.
"'Coach pulled me to the side and said 'we need you to be that next Carswell,' so we're trying to get me bigger," he said. "Carswell knew the running back calls, the offensive calls, the receiver calls, he knew everything, and I want to be that complete player."
"They told me I have a chance, they said ‘come to practice, show us you're consistent and the position is yours.' Of course you're gonna have to battle for it, but we wanna see you and other receivers pushing for that position.'"
It's been three years and Flournoy said he still doesn't feel like he's accomplished a thing. Boasting a new, do-whatever-it-takes mentality, Flournoy's increased confidence on the field is noticeable.
"I feel more hungry this year," he said. "Like, my biggest status is a pancake block in a game and I feel like that's not acceptable. I hold myself to a higher standard.
"I wear this number 10 for a reason. I want that reason to be shown out on the field."