Garry P has an interesting piece up at We Are SC.
In the two years since the NCAA's crippling sanctions Garry P takes a look back at where USC came from and where USC is going.
It was one of the stiffest punishments ever handed down by the NCAA, and there was a lot of speculation as to how crippling it would be to the Trojans program.
USC is an elite program with a strong foundation. Then again, so is Alabama, and there was a noticeable impact on the Crimson Tide program a decade ago when it suffered from lesser NCAA scholarship losses. Even Trojans athletic director Pat Haden commented about how the impact of the sanctions could be felt for up to 10 years.
For a football team that had known such recent success, the sanctions were suddenly a potential turning point for the Trojans. Gone was the coach -- Pete Carroll -- who had led that recent success, and in his place was Lane Kiffin, an unproven commodity. Sure, Kiffin had potential, but at that point there was no guarantee that he was the right man for the job.
Obviously there were many of us that had doubts about Lane Kiffin.
There are a number of people out there that still do, and it is fair to say that no matter how successful Lane Kiffin may be at USC, he will continue to have his detractors.
I am on the side of the ledger that thinks USC still has a bit of a storm ahead. This season will be the first season that USC feels the teeth of the scholarship reductions.
Even if Kiffin keeps bringing in the blue chips during the scholarship reductions, USC still loses the depth.
I have said this numerous times, depth is the key.
One rash of injuries or the odd blue chip recruit that doesn't pan out and USC is in deep trouble. There is no question that Kiffin and his staff have done their homework in bringing in top talent that won't be a head case on or off the field, but you never know how that talent turns out until the player hits the field. With the quality of competition in the Pac-12 (which is only going to get tougher with Mike Leach, Rich Rodriguez and Todd Graham out there), that means the margin of difference talent-wise eventually shows up on the field.
I absolutely give Lane Kiffin credit for changing the culture and weeding out some of the bad apples that were on this team. But with expectations high and some raw talent coming in Kiffin has his work cut out for him.
I agree with a few points in the article, but I am simply not buying into Garry P's comparison to Alabama. It is a bit complicated. Yes, Alabama is an elite program and I am certainly not a shill for the SEC, but they had some bigger issues to face.
There was a lot of public turmoil surrounding the Alabama head coaching job as the penalties were handed down. Franchione said he'd stay, then he didn't. Enter Mike Price....Exit Mike Price and then there was Mike Shula. The lack of stability at the head coaching position certainly walloped Alabama's recruiting on top of the sanctions that followed. I try not to be a Kiffin apologist, but in this respect USC did far better than anyone could have expected.
(As an aside, as much as Mike Shula is bashed by the Alabama faithful, many will admit that he was not a bad recruiter. He almost got Tebow and was responsible for bringing in the heart of the Alabama 2009 championship defense, with Rolando McClain, Javy Arenas and quite a few others).
Kiffin also had Monte and Coach O as stabilizing factors. I don't think Alabama had anything close to that.
Lane Kiffin has completely defied expectations by calming the situation and avoiding the more grave complications that Alabama faced. Legit or not, Kiffin was on a short leash also with Haden making sure that he didn't pull the same stunts that he did at Tennessee.
Simply stated, to me, the loss of scholarships is simply too severe to completely overcome. Heck, USC can't even over sign because of the 75 player limit. It is a bit of a double edge sword.
I am less concerned about this year with Matt Barkley at the helm, but once he leaves how will his replacement perform? You know Wittek and Kessler won't see a lot of playing time this season and they will have to share snaps with Max Browne next season. Times have changed since Leinart, Booty and Sanchez. Real playing time matters.
This is why it is so critical that Lane Kiffin maximizes his available slots. He simply doesn't have the luxury to have a player who may be borderline to qualifying academically let alone recruiting a whack job like Dillon Baxter, etc. So, I partially agree that the sanctions made Kiffin think different with how he built his roster.
There is no question that USC is in a good spot going forward but the picture isn't complete, we won't get a clearer picture until the 2012 season is well under way.
H/T to Kleph at Roll 'Bama Roll for the historical context.