For al the excitement and energy that is brewing around USC Football, now that interim coach Ed Orgeron has taken over the reigns, the dust has finally settled giving players a chance to reflect on their Lane Kiffin experiences.
Working with the Senior class for his entire four-year tenure, players up and down the docket have shared laughs, tears and plenty of aggressive emotion working under Lane Kiffin. Following an energetic practice at Howard Jones Field, players reflected on the shock of hearing Kiffin's departure along with their final thoughts on his nearly four-year tenure.
"I thank Coach Kiffin for every opportunity he gave me," says Tre Madden, who was not only recruited by Kiffin but also given the opportunity to switch from linebacker to running back, which has instantly boosted his stock towards the starting ranks.
Many of his peers on the squad took a similar stance on Kiffin, who may not have been a fan favorite but certainly connected with many of his players throughout their fledgling collegiate careers.
The biggest difference for players may seem simple and easily recognizable. The mentality on the sideline instantly changed from the opening whistle, especially when Orgeron grabbed the offense by the horns, demanding perfection on each and every play. "Kiffin was a little more strict, like stringent I guess, and Coach O is a little more loose," said senior running back Silas Redd, who was visited Kiffin in a highly-publicized recruiting pitch at Penn State last spring.
While change continues to spark a new-found life into the program, none comes bigger than for quarterback Cody Kessler, who says he began to grow really close with Kiffin throughout his three seasons on campus. As one of the players who grew closest to Kiffin along with his quarterback compatriots, was shocked when hearing about Kiffin's firing on Sunday.
"We had no control over the situation," said Kessler, who was named starter by Kiffin earlier this year and sounded rather introspective when addressing the departure of his former head coach. "Its never easy losing a coach, especially a guy that recruited me and has been here the whole time I have been here. It's never a good situation."
This appreciation even stems to next man next up in the offensive food chain, offensive coordinator Clay Helton, who was brought in by Kiffin to work with the quarterbacks and craft a game plan each and every week for opposing defenses.
"I am very fortunate that each and every spring Lane gave me the opportunity to call plays and learn how to handle adversity and run an offense," said offensive coordinator Clay Helton, who will be calling plays for the first time in a regular season game after working hand and hand on the game plan with Kiffin over the course of their partnership.
Now that Helton will be calling the offense from downstairs, players will get a chance to toy with success that came from spring practice when the "quarterback guru" last took the reigns on offense. While plenty of flack fired around the classic black hoodie look against Georgia Tech, players understand what change truly means.
"Coach Kiffin was calling plays that he thought was best for the team. I don't think he was trying to lose games," said WR Nelson Agholor, who will be heavily called upon following a knee strain suffered by Marqise Lee against Arizona State.
Lane Kiffin's legacy as head coach at USC may be cast in negative light for crazy off the field antics, lackluster play calling and surprisingly mind-numbing decision making at times, but that doesn't mean players will forget the man who recruited most of them to take their talents to Southern California.
Following a rather mystifying feeling earlier this week not having the perennial 800-pound gorilla lofting around Kiffin's future on campus, players have focused their sights on the final eight games of the season. Times are certainly changing and even Lane Kiffin begins the moving on process stripping USC Head Coach from his twitter timeline.