Just when it appeared the Trojans coach had broken free of his troubled reputation, Lane Kiffin was again tackled this week by his inescapable past, and now you have to wonder how it will ultimately shape his future, writes Bill Plaschke.
According to a report by Yahoo! Sports, former USC assistant Willie Mack Garza broke NCAA rules by reimbursing a talent scout to pay for a prospect and his mother to visit Tennessee when Garza was coaching there in 2009. Garza's boss at the time? It was, of course, Kiffin.I am not at all surprised that some schools have gotten in hot water for using "recruiting services" as de facto shuttle services, meaning that if a school buys their service for $5,000 or $10,000, the service will do whatever it can to make sure that a group of the most coveted prospects in their area will get to campus for summer camp or unofficial visits.
If there is one name that USC does not need associated with its program right now, it's Will Lyles. If there are two entities that USC does not want in the same sentence right now, it's Kiffin and the NCAA. Kiffin assured USC AD Pat Haden that he had no knowledge or involvement in Garza's alleged $1,500 repayment to Lyles for flying highly touted running back Lache Seastrunk and his mother from Texas to Tennessee for an unofficial recruiting visit.
"All I can say on that is that the alleged incident, I had no knowledge of, or no knowledge of a relationship at all," Kiffin told reporters Tuesday morning.
The other tough question involves Garza's season with the Trojans. If he was indeed a rogue recruiter for Tennessee, why would he suddenly become a clean one for the Trojans? Does USC have to worry now that its sincere two-year effort at compliance and cleanliness could be soiled with future revelations of past Garza messes? Are they sure nobody in Heritage Hall has Will Lyles on speed dial?
The surprising part was that someone wired a payment to one of them. This stuff has been going on for a few years now and has been pretty common in the South. Who knows what this will ultimately mean for Lane Kiffin and whether he has plausible deniability.
I do buy Plaschke's point that stuff like this only whittles away the coach's margin for error. Truth is, of all the things that have been connected to Kiffin in the past week, the news of the Trojans losing at ASU was probably a lot worse for him than this latest sticky mess. Sanctions or not, he needs to convince people around USC that he can win games and not just against those with significantly inferior talent.
*Can Bud Foster slow down Chad Morris' high-flying Clemson offense, Mark Giannotto wonders.
Over the course of 17 games (13 at Tulsa last year, and now four with Clemson this season), Morris’s units have scored less than 28 points just once, not a bad track record for someone who spent the previous 16 years, and won three state titles, as a Texas high school coach. So when Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster sat down with reporters Monday night after practice, he seemed resigned to the fact that Saturday night won’t be a game in which his unit can hold the opposition to six rushing yards, like the Hokies did at Marshall, or 112 total yards, a feat Virginia Tech accomplished at East Carolina.
“You try to contain them. I don’t know if you can stop them,” Foster said. “Keep them to a minimum, but I don’t know what that minimum is. Can you keep them to 20 points? I don’t know. They’re just a talented group.”
Morris, meanwhile, tends to signal the play into Boyd once he’s at the line of scrimmage and an opponent sets up in their defense. Ultimately, Foster says, Clemson’s goal is to have so many moving parts and such a quick tempo that a defense is forced to simply play a vanilla base defense. So the most important battles Saturday could happen pre-snap, as Foster and the Hokies try to determine whether they have enough time to switch their coverages or change in-and-out of blitzes once Boyd is under center reading the defense for his keys.
I love this matchup of the two coordinators at different stages of their careers. Another great subplot will be how much VT's star CB Jayron Hosley matches up on Clemson's stud freshman WR Sammy Watkins. Hosley played a big role in Tech completely shutting down Lance Lewis, ECU's standout receiver. Lewis is averaging 10 catches and two TDs in the Pirates games aside from the one vs. Tech. In that one, he managed just three grabs for 17 yards.
*Even though Nebraska pounded Wyoming last week, it was painful for Jared Crick, the Huskers standout DT who was sidelined for the game, to watch, writes Steve Sipple.
"It sucked, man. It really sucked," Crick said Tuesday. "I was just wanting to be out there. Not just wanting to be out there for my 32nd start. I just wanted to be out there and play with my guys. That's the biggest thing for us, just being out there for each other. Me not being able to do that really hurt me.
"It definitely gave me an itch to get back out there. It definitely gives me a lot of motivation going into this week."
Crick, the preseason Big Ten defensive player of the year, took a nasty shot to the earhole on the final play Sept. 17 against Washington. The hit knocked him off his feet. Nebraska coaches haven't disclosed why he sat out of the Wyoming game, and Crick didn't want to address the topic with reporters. Despite missing practice all last week, he feels good about his conditioning.
*The nation's three most prolific passers, Brandon Weeden, Case Keenum and Geno Smith have one thing in common: all played for Dana Holgorsen in college.
I'll have a lot more about Holgorsen later today on the site.
*Korey Williams, Southern Miss' leading tackler broke news on Twitter Monday night that he will have knee surgery and indicated his senior season is probably over.
"Had dreams of making my senior season my best season," Williams posted on Twitter. "Just ready to get this surgery and start this rehab ASAP."
USM coach Larry Fedora, who announced several weeks ago he would not comment on injuries or his players’ health this season, did not return phone calls today seeking comment on Williams’ status, reports Patrick Magee.
Meanwhile, Williams, a senior, already appears focused on preparing for the NFL.
On his Twitter account, Williams posted: "Erin Henderson. Undrafted free agent because he tore his acl his last year of college. Now starting middle linebacker for the Vikings."
*In the shameless self-promo department, I'm on a podcast with Wes Bunting from the National Football Post about two intriguing QB prospects Ryan Tannehill and Weeden as well as the young but gifted LSU secondary.