(Photo by Icon Sports Media)
A close friend on TrojanWire attended the Lane Kiffin Heritage Golf Classic on Monday at Coto de Caza Golf and Racquet Club. Here are his thoughts after spending some time with the coaches and listening to what they had to say about this upcoming season:
The entire coaching staff attended the tournament and our friend had a good chance to talk with many of them. The coaching staff is large in numbers with former players like Kerry Colbert and Sammy Knight helping out. He got a sense that the entire group is fired up and excited to change a few things while keeping the basics that Pete Carroll brought to the program.
After meeting Ed Orgeron, he was very impressed. He said the guy is an absolute stud and if he didn’t know any better he felt Orgeron was as much of the head coach as Kiffin in many ways and Kiffin supports it.
He got a chance to talk with Mark Jackson who is a great guy and very close with Lane Kiffin. Both of them came into the USC program the same year.
He also got to meet Monte Kiffin who is nothing short of a football God and a “great guy to boot.” Mark Jackson told our friend that Monte will have the defense playing better than ever with his schemes and every kid will love playing for him.
Here are a few highlights from the Q &A session with Kiffin. Even though it was a USC friendly crowd, our buddy thought Kiffin did an excellent job handling all the questions. He doesn’t have the same charisma as Pete Carroll, but he does answer questions honestly and gave a few great answers.
Lane was asked which position he is most impressed with. He quickly answered that our d-line is by far the deepest position and every spot is two deep. He said our d-line quality and depth is the one position right now that has the depth of the 2005 team.
More from the event after the jump…
Lane said the running game will be a focal point and indicated that he is not a big fan of rotating a lot of running backs. He said we have many good backs with different skills and would like to work with them so they could all be more well rounded. Our friend got the feeling that Kiffin will have a two man rotation at most by the 3rd game of the season and he will feed the ball to those guys most of the time.
Someone asked about Dillon Baxter and our friend was surprised to hear him say more than once that he considers Baxter to be one of the best players on our entire team. Quite a compliment for a kid who has only been with the team for a month. Kiffin said he doesn’t have the top end speed of Reggie, but is just as skilled in making people miss. Baxter is going to likely return kicks and play a big role right away.
Kiffin seemed a little concerned with our o-line depth right now. Injuries are part of the problem, but he hopes Seantrel Henderson is able to come in and help out right away.
Kiffin said Matt Barkley is looking great, but our friend couldn’t help but notice how much he stressed that Mitch Mustain has progressed recently. Our friend got the impression that he doesn’t think Barkley is in jeopardy of losing the #1 job but he does think that Kiffin likes Mustain.
Kiffin said Ronald Johnson is primed for a huge year and is a good NFL prospect. If RoJo stays healthy, he is the one receiver that will be a stud. Kiffin also likes Kyle Prater and thinks he will eventually be a great receiver, but he needs a lot of work and is very young.
Kiffin is impressed with Malcolm Smith at linebacker and thinks he will have a good year. Kiffin said that Devon Kennard is playing middle linebacker and pushing Chris Galippo.
Lane likes Shareece Wright at corner and mentioned Jawanza Starling has had a great spring, but indicated our secondary is still a work in progress.
Lane would like special teams to be more aggressive blocking punts. He would also like to see our best players on special team units.
The best thing our friend thought Lane mentioned was his desire to teach our team to be confident and not cocky. Kiffin wants to eliminate stupid penalties, taunting, and standing over a player after they make a tackle. Kiffin thinks this has been a big problem with the team the past year or two and something the best teams under Pete Carroll never did.
Thank you very much to our friend that attended the event. I owe you a few drinks next time we go out. Fight On!