It has been a tumultuous year for USC this year, and the season has not yet started. USC’s appeal denied by the NCAA, Marc Tyler making dark headlines, Lane Kiffin and the allegations against him from the NCAA during his tenure at Tennessee; USC has been stuck in the wrong side of news information for a while. Kiffin would like to end that now.
"As we look at USC, there are great things going on," said Kiffin during his opening statement during his first conference at Pac-12 media day on Tuesday.
Right off the bat, Kiffin brought up the John McKay Center, which is ahead of schedule in structuring. The new athletic building will change USC athletics as it will revolutionize sport athletes on campus, and will be a great recruiting pitch to any prospects looking to possibly enroll at USC.
Kiffin also was in no hurry to bring up the 2011 recruiting class.
"There are some skilled guy in that class," said Kiffin. "We signed players that will make us more explosive; players that will speed up the offense."
But as previously said, reporters batted around Kiffin about the events with Tyler and the appeal.
"With Marc, I told him that he represents not only a lot of great players, but alumni," remarked Kiffin. "Marc has to get right, until he does, he won’t be with us."
That’s right. Until Tyler gets "right", he may never play football at USC. Kiffin stressed that Tyler understands where he is with the football program and it is up to Tyler to show he has matured.
As for the appeal, you won’t hear about it around the USC campus.
"We’re moving forward, it’s not hanging over our head anymore," said Kiffin. "Like I told our fans, we’re going to quit worrying about it. Nothing is going to change with us. Anytime we’re worrying about this, I tried to ignore it because we can be getting better. "
The players understand that as well. Since the sanctions that were laid down on USC last year, few players used the opportunity to transfer to another school without losing a year of eligibility. After the 2010 season, only Hebron "Loni" Fangupo transferred from USC. He is playing at BYU.
"Once guys practice and get going," Kiffin continued, "and walk down to the Coliseum and get ready to play, I don’t think they think about sanctions.
"I think they think of getting scholarships from USC and going to the next level."
"We don’t think about it through the season," junior quarterback Matt Barkley intervened. "We take every game week by week. We focus on what’s important. We’ll probably think about it after the season."
Kiffin harped on how the defense will become better. With the move from outside linebacker to defensive end, junior Devon Kennard will play the role that he had been playing since high school. Junior TJ McDonald and sophomore Nickell Robey will be the two stars that will anchor the secondary. USC had one of its worst defensive teams last year.
"If we stay healthy and develop our linebackers," Kiffin continued. "Things will fine."
Trojans Suffering Injuries On Defense
Senior defensive end Armond Armstead is still not cleared to be ready for fall camp. Armstead suffered chest pains earlier in the year and had to be shut down by the team for his safety. Tests are still being run on Armstead.
"At least doctors haven’t said he’s out for the season," said Kiffin. "That’s positive than what we thought it would be."
Cornerback Patrick Hall and true freshman defensive end Devante Wilson will also be inactive for the season as both suffered ACL injuries. Wilson would’ve most likely had red shirt his first year anyhow. Hall has now had ACL injuries in both of his knees.
Aundrey Walker To Right Tackle?
Highly touted offensive guard Aundrey Walker will start at a new position, right tackle. The Ohio native comes in at 6-6 and 375 pounds, and may be mobile enough to make the change.
"If it doesn’t work out then we’ll move him somewhere inside," said Kiffin. "But as of right now, our initial move is to move him at right tackle."
What About Those Quarterbacks Not Named Matt Barkley?
"It’s wide open," is how the competition for backup quarterback according Kiffin.
Red shirt freshman Jesse Scroggins and true freshmen, Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, are currently in the hunt for the backup role behind Barkley.
"It’s going to be a very critical competition," says Kiffin. "You’ve seen in the past two years when Matt got banged up, we really had to use one of the backups. We have to develop a number two guy and get him ready to play."