Is the clock ticking on Lane Kiffin?

Jamie Squire

Lane Kiffin has promise, but is he squandering his opportunity?

For just a moment, take away the performances that we have seen from this team in 2012.

There have been some great games and some head shaking moments this season. The team has said all the right things and the attitude has been generally positive. Yes, there have been a few moments where some of the players have strayed form the party line but most have stayed positive.

Lane Kiffin was the right guy for the job with what USC was about to face. Losing Pete Carroll suddenly called for someone who could save the recruiting class and who understood USC's traditions. The needs were immediate, Kiffin's coaching credentials were a little bit lacking but you knew there was some promise there.

For the most part Kiffin has done some great work in changing the culture of entitlement that permeated Pete Carroll's final two seasons. Kiffin, for the most part, has recruited some solid citizens and leaned on his upperclassmen to keep the younger guys in track.

Kiffin has some shackles on his program, the scholarship reductions forced him to work the team differently. Lack of contact in practices etc.

Kiffin, I'm sure with Pat Haden's blessing, instituted some things to further his control over the program.

Still, things were quiet on the controversy front until this season. No need to rehash the issues but it is clear that the pressure has made its presence known.

I have said that it doesn't look like Lane Kiffin is maturing as a head coach. Even if you disagree with my opinion, I am not the only one that sees it.

It wasn't supposed to be this way, mostly because Kiffin had grown up since his ill-fated autumn at Tennessee and his pursuit of a 13-year old recruit (David Sills) in his first year on the job in Los Angeles. This past offseason, multiple football writers came away impressed with Kiffin's ability to comport himself as the leader of a program, turning away from his former identity as a merry prankster whose primary focus was to tweak opponents and not beat them. ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski and other college football scribes authored plenty of stories over the spring and summer that all pointed to the same basic reality: Kiffin had finally emerged as a grown-up figure, a man who realized from Steve Spurrier that you land verbal jabs at opponents after you beat them, not before.

This was the Lane Kiffin who stood a chance in the cauldron of college football. This was the kind of man who could succeed, unlike the one who gloried – yes, gloried – in a 10-point loss to Urban Meyer and Florida as Tennessee's head coach in 2009.

Yet, for all that Kiffin had done over the past 18 months – straightening up and flying right off the field while getting USC to win in Autzen Stadium – a few facts still hovered over his head as this season began:

1) Kiffin had not yet coached USC in a season when postseason prizes were on the table.

2) Kiffin had not yet coa
ched a USC team that was expected to win the Pac-12 and contend for the national title.

It goes on...

I genuinely think that people want to give Kiffin a chance. They are willing to forgive the past as Kiffin reshaped his image, but this season is showing that Kiffin is regressing a bit back to his old ways. The difference isn't that Kiffin is looking to make a name for himself like he did at Tennessee but more that he is having a difficult time dealing with the expectations, the exposure and the pressure.

Kiffin has the best job he could ever ask for. It is clear that he is still trying to get comfortable in this position but he is not handling some things both on and off the field very well.

We all heard the "Prep over Hype" mantra that was put forth before the season.

Is anyone buying it?

Does this team look prepared from week to week?

I am no fan of Plaschke, but even I thought his article was well articulated and reasoned in how the coaching of this team seems lacking.

Their talent is unlimited, but their season has been a waste. Their potential is arguably the best in the country, yet their results have been indisputably the most disappointing in recent memory.

This Trojans are great players, yet the Trojans are one messy team, witness Saturday's 39-36 defeat to Arizona that erased them from the national championship picture while stripping them of all benefit of the doubt.

This isn't working. The NFL offense isn't working. The wise old coordinator's defense isn't working.

More than anything, Lane Kiffin isn't working. At some point, the learning curve for the young coach has to start consistently trending upward. In this most important of his three seasons here, it has flatlined.

I understand that USC has lost two games by a total of 10 points, but is anyone got the warm and fuzzies on how this team is performing?

There have been some fantastic individual performances, but what about the team as a whole? All that talent and the team makes the same mistakes over and over. As I much as we laughed at Slick Rick and Brian Kelly rip his players on the sidelines maybe that is what some on this team need....a public flogging. I am being facetious of course, but you get my drift.

I am curious as to where Pat Haden is in all of this.

Haden understands pressure, I am sure he can be a guiding light for Kiffin to navigate through the high expectations that are out there.

Kiffin isn't going to get that sort of guidance from Monte or Ed, so Haden needs to be on top of this.

Unless of course Haden wants Kiffin to fail.

It will be interesting to see how Kiffin and this team perform the rest of the way. SOme think that kiffin won't be on the hot seat until 2014.

If things get worse, I am not so sure that I agree....

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