Playcalling. Kiffin didn't realize when he started what's been a bit of a media tour this week that it would be such a big deal when he revealed that he would maintain playcalling duties. He thought he let the media know that decision awhile back… but he didn't. So there it is. Kiffin will be the Trojans 2013 playcaller. He said he partly came to the decision because he looked back over his time at USC and thought – with exception of the second half of this past season – that he did fine. He compared it to the career of Matt Barkley in terms of saying that if you just looked at the last few games of Barkley's career, you'd think he was a subpar quarterback – but if you look at the broader scope of his career, he was a great one.
It was brought up that junior linebacker Hayes Pullard said that he can go to Kiffin – and does – when it comes to anything. Football issues, personal life issues, literally – anything. Kiffin was asked if he wishes the public knew that side of him, rather than the picture that is always painted of him. In short, the answer I gathered was yes. In long, he said he can't worry about what side of him the media sees and what the media chooses to write. He said at all times he makes his decisions with everyone's best interest in mind. On a sidenote, prior to Kiffin sitting down we spoke with Marqise Lee for a few minutes, so said he would play for Kiffin til he dies – he'd even want to play for Kiffin at the next level.
Kiffin was asked if there's been a long-term plan at USC. Obvious answer, yes. However, he was sure to clarify that long-term plans often don't go as visualized. Players get injured, players transfer, kids don't make the grades, someone is the surprise star. So for as much as you plan, you can't plan it all.
I asked Kiffin about recruiting and how last season's performance has affected the spring – summer recruiting season, so to speak. He said no doubt, it has and that it's understandable why the commitments aren't necessarily rolling in (They currently have seven). He says especially parents are more cautious about their child commiting when they don't know what the job security is of the current staff. Last year, it was easy to collect commitments with all the positive buzz around the program, preseason No. 1, looking to build on the 10-2 2012 season, and so forth. This year, while Kiffin says the attitude and buzz within the program is excellent, the outside perception is that the Trojans are down. It obviously makes recruiting more challenging. But as he always says, winning solves a lot of problems.
I asked about Silas Redd and what his availability will be when fall camp opens on Saturday. Redd hasn't been absent from summer workouts. Simple answer here: I don't know what happens in summer workouts…followed by chuckles. For what it's worth, I think there are some concerns about Redd's health and his ability to stay healthy. At other points in the discussion, his ability to stay healthy – from his back to his knees, was brought up. It will be interesting to see if Redd if available when camp opens, or more likely – if he's in a yellow caution jersey. Could be speculation here, could be reality.
After examining and cross-examining film over the summer, Kiffin concluded this on why USC didn't find success last year: their inability to consistently run the ball, their inability to convert on third down, and turnovers. Basically, football. Look for those to be major areas of focus in a week.
USC only has five scholarship receivers, which could leave one to believe the tight ends will be more involved in the offense. Here was Kiffin's friendly reminder: there are only three scholarship tight ends available. Junior Pomee update: he hasn't been with the team in awhile and sounds like he never will be again. "Best of luck to him," Kiffin said.
Getting back to concerns, the fullbacks. Kiffin nearly scoffed when he spoke about the cutups of the fullbacks. Part of the short-yardage problem falling on their shoulders, or rather their hands – and their inability to catch the football.
Sanctions. If my mind isn't fooling me, it seems like last year we were reminded about the sanctions and the depth and how being held to 75 only allows you to do x – y – and z. This year? Please don't bring up the sanctions. They're just an excuse, an excuse USC doesn't want to make. "I try to avoid talking about sanctions," Kiffin said, noting that he has to answer the media's questions, but doesn't want to talk about scholarship reductions, depth issues due to lack of scholarship players, and so forth. He's had the discussion with his staff to stop talking about it, they can't appeal it again, they can't control it, they can only deal with it.
Hard to believe we went this far into the conversation without touching on the quarterback battle, but we did. Lee told us earlier that he wants to know who the quarterback is ASAP to start building chemistry. I asked Kiffin if that would urge him to make a decision quicker; so his team can build chemistry or if he wants to make sure it's the right guy. Kiffin said it has to be the right guy. He's in no rush to choose, because he's got to make sure he's choosing right. How about a two-quarterback system? Nah. He's never been a fan. He can't say it won't happen, but based off his tone when answering the question – I'll tell you, it won't happen. He wishes they had preseason games, saying that scrimmages just don't tell the whole story.
What about freshman quarterback Max Browne if he doesn't win the starting role, will he redshirt? Kiffin doesn't know. He doesn't plan redshirts til it happens. That goes for everyone.
After the quarterback situation, the USC head coach says it's the secondary where he's really watching. Lots of talent. Not a ton of starting experience at positions where guys will be playing. Dion Bailey – who will play safety – obviously has starting experience…at linebacker. Josh Shaw – who will play safety – has starting experience…at cornerback. The cornerbacks… I think that just remains a major concern, though Kiffin did say he's "excited" about it.
And the grand finale. The video message released by USC Athletic Director Pat Haden. In case you didn't catch the four-minute flick, in sum, Haden said "I stand by Lane Kiffin as our coach now and in the future 100%". Kiffin is not on the hot seat. Doesn't sound like he will be anytime soon. Kiffin said at media day that sports information informed him Haden was going to say something on the matter. Kiffin didn't know it was going to be a video message. He said personally he doesn't need the reassurance. He works with Haden everyday and has the daily reminder that he is supported by both Haden and USC president Max Nikias. Kiffin says he always "feels their support" and that they have a "better understanding on sanctions and impacts" than the media and fans.