Is Kiffin a Mad Man?

Lane Kiffin doesn't strike me as someone who watches a lot of television, but I suspect he might like "Mad Men." Forget about its sharp writing, three consecutive Emmy wins for Best Drama or USC connections all over the staff, the first-year coach would appreciate the plight of its leading man, Don Draper.

Lane Kiffin doesn't strike me as someone who watches a lot of television, but I suspect he might like "Mad Men." Forget about its sharp writing, three consecutive Emmy wins for Best Drama or USC connections all over the staff, the first-year coach would appreciate the plight of its leading man, Don Draper.

Amidst the turmoil of the 1960's, Draper has risen to the top of his profession in spite of – or maybe because of – circumstance.

The question at the heart of the show, even asked aloud in opening moments of its fourth season premiere, is "Who is Don Draper?"

Well, the question at the heart of USC's 2010 season, its future dealing with NCAA sanctions and beyond is who is Lane Kiffin?

Is he the wunderkind who left Reggie Bush off the field on fourth and two?


Lane Kiffin has assembled an impressive staff.
Is he the miracle worker who managed to make JaMarcus Russell look downright competent before drawing the ire of Raiders owner Al Davis?

Is he public enemy No. 1 in the SEC, so much so that commissioner Mike Slive won't refer to by name?

Is he the catfish wrangler who nearly undid Alabama's undefeated BCS championship run in Tuscaloosa?

Or is he something different altogether, the man about to have the last laugh?

Taking the Trojans' roster, schedule and staff in a vacuum, it has the look of a top five team, a viable contender for the national title game.

There's a quarterback who went through a trial by fire last season at Columbus, Berkeley, South Bend and Eugene. There's a defensive line that starts an end bigger than most team's tackles. There's a freshman class that has already produced two starters by the end of training camp and could introduce no fewer than six major contributors in its first year.

There's an opening month that, while it features three road trips, might see each and every one of those coaches fired by year's end. There's a stretch that features four of five critical games all at home. And if USC isn't ready for trips to Arizona and Oregon State by November, well, it doesn't deserve to be regarded among the game's elite.

There's two crucial pieces of the Pete Carroll dynasty back in the fold, Ed Orgeron and Kennedy Pola, dynamic recruiters, great teachers and men who understand the Trojan tradition. There's Monte Kiffin, Carroll's mentor and a genuine coaching legend.

So why isn't USC held in the same regard as say Oklahoma, which went 8-5 last year? Kiffin and the never-before-seen circumstances he finds himself in.

Forget about the bowl ban or scholarship reductions, there's a scenario, however unlikely, that opponents could recruit Trojan upperclassmen and bring them in during the week if only to get the game plan. Those sorts of tactics are more commonly associated with Bill Belichick, not Joe Bruin.

It's all on Lane, his ability to motivate this team, energize it, keep it together off the field and competitive on it. He has taken steps already in that aim, in the players he signed in his first recruiting staff and the coaches he assembled to join his staff.

Talents like Robert Woods, Nickell Robey and Dillon Baxter came here to see action and get to the next level. Pola, Joe Barry and John Baxter all want to be head coaches themselves. That's why they have all come to USC at this moment.

Everything is in place for this year's Trojans to post double-digit wins, perhaps even inject themselves in that other big question, the one involving the crystal football.

But that can't be answered until Kiffin himself is solved.


Lane Kiffin adresses the press at Pac-10 Media Day.


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