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Monday, July 22, 2013
Media day: What Kiffin will and won't say

By Greg Katz

This Friday morning at Sony Studios in Culver City, Calif., the Pac-12 Conference and the media will gather in Sound Stage 8 to promote the 2013 college football season, and the focus will be on USC Trojans coach Lane Kiffin, who is currently sitting on college football’s hottest of hot seats.

It has been fairly obvious that Kiffin feels as confortable at media days and news conferences as a dental patient waiting for a root canal. Given his choice, Kiffin would probably rather be back in his cushy John McKay Center office, devising offensive strategy for Heisman Trophy candidate Marqise Lee, the Trojans' explosive wide receiver.

Here are five questions Kiffin likely will be asked at Pac-12 media day, and my projections of what he will and won't say:

Coach, who will call the offensive plays in 2013?

Lane Kiffin
To say Lane Kiffin enjoys answering questions would be a stretch. So we answered a few for him.
Kiffin will say: I am glad you asked that question. I am still getting information on what we might do in regard to that question. I love what we did on offense in the spring, and I really liked the way our quarterbacks coach Clay Helton ran the offense. He really does a good job. I really haven’t made a decision yet, but I am getting closer to making one. I haven’t put a timetable on it, so we’ll see how it all plays out.

Kiffin won’t say: Are you kidding me? Of course I am going to call the plays. What else would I do on the sidelines if I weren’t calling plays? Look, if I am going to be on the hot seat, I am not going to let another coach dictate my fate. If I am going down, I am going to be the captain of my ship. If I do let another coach call the plays, I will script the first 25 plays and then accept or reject any ensuing play suggestions on a play-by-play basis.

Coach, who will be your quarterback in 2013?

Kiffin will say: I am glad you asked that question. Both Max Wittek and Cody Kessler had excellent springs, and there isn’t any real difference between the two of them. Each has some really good strengths. I am sure that this competition will probably go right down to the final week. This thing will play itself out. I am not too concerned about it.

Kiffin won’t say: Are you kidding me? Everybody knows that I like prototype NFL bodies with bazooka arms. Max Wittek is the closest thing to what I like and, yes, he had a tough time at the Sun Bowl, but so did the rest of the team. I like Cody Kessler, he’s a real gamer -- but he just doesn’t have that NFL look that I like. Besides, it’s better to have Cody Kessler on your roster than having him play against you in the Pac-12.

Coach, how different will the offense be this season?

Kiffin will say: I am glad you asked that question. We have more depth this season, which hurt us badly last season because of the NCAA sanctions. Matt [Barkley] not playing in the final two games hurt us more than anything else. We’re going to emphasize a physical running game, which was what we needed to do last season. We really want to pound the ball on the ground but be balanced.

Kiffin won’t say: Are you kidding me? First, we’ll be better because I love offensive football. To me, it’s like playing a video game, and I won’t have to worry about Matt Barkley’s Heisman Trophy stats. Sure, I would like to run the ball. I say that every season, but sometimes the game plan doesn’t allow for it. You know me, I love to throw the ball around the yard, and with Marqise we’re just one bubble screen away from taking it all the way.

Coach, what has the change of defensive coordinator meant to your team?

Kiffin will say: I am glad somebody asked that question. Our new defensive coordinator, Clancy Pendergast, has done a great job. The kids love him. He has made the defense simple to read, and I think that showed in the spring. I like our defensive line a lot, our linebackers are active and we’re going to have some really good safeties.

Kiffin won’t say: Are you kidding me? You think I am going to rip on my dad and his inability to stop the spread option? He’s forgotten more about football than any of you hacks will ever know. As for our defense, I'm as scared as heck regarding our corners. I am praying that Pendergast’s schemes comes through, because if we get the same type of results on defense this season as last season, we’ll all be working Coliseum security in 2014.”

Coach, do you feel you’re on the hot seat, and how are you dealing with it?

Kiffin will say: I am really glad you asked that question. It just goes with the business. The NCAA sanctions and limited numbers are the biggest problems. I think we’re doing the best we can with the cards we’ve been dealt. I am not worried about me. I focus on the kids, and I am really excited about this season. It’s really not about me.”

Kiffin won’t say: Are you kidding me? It doesn’t matter if 99 percent of the people think I should have been canned last season. The only person who counts is my athletic director, Pat Haden, and if he didn’t think I wasn’t doing a good job, I wouldn’t be up here talking to y’all today. What is it you don’t understand? Last season was an anomaly, or have you forgotten my first couple of winning seasons here? Pat Haden remembers, and he knows I am still dealing with those sanctions. I am planning on being here for a long, long time.

Thanks, guys, I have to get back to the John McKay Center.