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Tough losing Tommie but next man up

As much as we hate to see him go, USC has to make Tommie Robinson's leaving work for the Trojan program now. But it won't be easy. Calling on Clay here.

We'll miss him.

Tommie Robinson is an outstanding coach. A terrific recruiter. And until Tuesday, a solid member of the Trojan team. And somebody his players could rally around because they could believe him. He was a tough taskmaster. And a big booster all at the same time.

And now he's Ed Orgeron's guy at LSU. And it comes as a surprise to all of us. Because Tom's love, oft-expressed, for USC was legit. He didn't want to leave for Texas three years ago and never kept it quiet that he'd be back if he had to walk here from Austin, if only USC would have him.

He'd worked at Miami and Memphis, Oklahoma State and Arkansas, Georgia Tech and TCU, and in the NFL for the Cowboys and the Cardinals, but USC, where he coached in 2013 with CEO and in 2016 with Clay Helton, was where he wanted to be.

Tommie got it. And he could communicate the USC story to prospects to get them here. And just as important, once here, players got better under him.

But Coach O came after him with everything he had after letting both his running backs and wide receivers coaches go last weekend, causing a real stir among New Orleans high school coaches who have been talking of boycotting LSU over the sidelining of assistant Jabbar Juluke. LSU needed to fix things fast. And they did.

T-Rob, a 53-year-old Alabama native, will have two new titles after his name -- assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator -- in addition to running backs coach. And he'll have a big raise in his pocket. With an estimated USC salary of $335,000 a year, $5,000 more than he was being paid at Texas, Tommie will now be paid somewhere between the $575,000 one of the LSU assistants let go was making and $600,000. Not quite double but a big jump.

Should USC have gone to the mat to match that salary bump? If it's just one coach, maybe. If then you have to adjust your entire coaching salary structure over a weekend, maybe not possible. This would not be an easy call, especially when you factor in everything else. 

LSU's hiring of former Louisiana Tech assistant Mickey Joseph, who was making $100,000 there, frees up the money for Tommie's raise. Nice move by CEO although it has gotten him into hot water with his prime recruiting ground of New Orleans with the departure of New Orleans favorite Juluke, who was hired Tuesday by Texas Tech.

Which is where both new coaches come in. Joseph played and coached in New Orleans, where the coaches are having a Thursday meeting to discuss a possible LSU boycott despite Coach O's calls to every one of the dozen coaches upset about this. As for T-Rob, his recruiting props are being sold hard in the hire.

Here's how the New Orleans Times-Picayune described him: "He was named the 247 Sports Pac-12 Recruiter of the Year and the second-best overall recruiter in the country after he was listed as the primary recruiter for seven USC signees for the Class of 2017, including the late additions of All-Americans linebacker Levi Jones and safety Bubba Bolden. He was also instrumental in USC getting Stephen Carr, regarded as one of the top five running backs in the country."

And whether that's the absolutely correct interpretation of how that all went down, it's how the story is being told in the Bayou Country, where a total of eight coaches have now left since Ed's hiring in midseason. LSU really needed Coach T-Rob at this time and they got him. He did have time to say "Thanks, Dan," to a text congratulating him on his new job and we know how tough this has been for him to leave USC again, this time on his own volition. That his mother back home in Alabama might not be doing so well might also play into this as well.

But all we can do now is wish Tommie well. And wish Ed well. And hope USC and LSU find one another at the end of the College Football Playoffs next season. We do know this: If LSU had Sam Darnold at quarterback,they'd be there as USC folks feel they could well be.

"We are very excited to bring on board two outstanding coaches in Tommie Robinson and Mickey Joseph," Coach O said in a press release . . . "Tommie was recently named the Pac-12 Recruiter of the Year and is considered one of the top running backs coaches in college football. Tommie brings an impressive resume to our staff, one that includes six years of coaching in the NFL. He's going to be a tremendous asset to our program and will be a great resource for all of us."

Now Clay has to call on his resourcefulness and figure out the best way to go here. He has some flexibility with Johnny Nansen, recruiting coordinator, linebackers coach and assistant head coach, who can also coach running backs. Just off the top of our head, is there a way to get a Mike Ekeler back, the former Nebraska player and linebackers coach at Indiana, Oklahoma, LSU and Georgia now defensive coordinator at North Texas, who was an energetic recruiter and coach when he was here.

Or as a Peristyle poster has already suggested, what about Washington State's Jim Mastro, a two-time running backs coach of the year finalist and Cal Poly grad who has had a big impact on recruiting and the running game in Pullman the last five years. Just throwing those out there.

Or if USC takes a look at the bigger picture and ahead to the potential additional assistant coach the NCAA may soon grant, do they maybe take a run at someone like Alabama's Tosh Lupoi, the former Cal and Washington ace recruiter who has coached linebackers and D-line and then turn recruiting over to him, with Nansen moving to running backs? And do they invest the bucks that would take considering the number of assistants bailing on Nick Saban recently?

That's the challenge. Make things happen for the Trojans the way Ed did for LSU. Whatever it takes.   

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at

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