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Sunday, September 29, 2013
Kiffin's dismissal could help recruiting

By Blair Angulo and Erik McKinney

If the collective reaction from prospects who woke up Sunday to news of USC firing coach Lane Kiffin is any indication, the school’s recruiting efforts will likely benefit from the midseason dismissal.

In fact, ESPN 300 defensive end Malik Dorton (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), who committed to the Trojans in late August, believes the firing might be exactly what USC needs.

“Just talking to some other guys, it would open up a lot of possibilities with some highly rated recruits if Kiffin was gone,” Dorton said.

Malik Dorton
ESPN 300 DE and USC commit Malik Dorton thinks the Trojans could benefit from a coaching change.
One of those highly rated recruits would be local ESPN 300 athlete John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly), who was on his official visit to Ohio State when he found out Kiffin had been let go.

“I already knew it was coming, so it doesn’t change anything until they do something,” Smith said. “I’m still going to consider USC, but for the other recruits, it might be really hard. I’m just wondering who’s going to get the job.”

Five-star cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) had the same thought, as recruits figure to take a wait-and-see approach with the situation.

“I do not think it can affect my interest until I get a chance to talk to the new coach and USC’s current staff,” Jackson said.

The news of Kiffin’s firing also didn’t come as a surprise to four-star Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure), perhaps the No. 1 target at tight end for the Trojans.

“I wasn’t shocked that he got fired,” Dixon said. “I heard a lot of talk about him getting fired soon, but tragedy happens all the time, so hopefully SC chooses another great coach. Like I’ve said before, SC is SC. No one can change that about them, and my interest will most likely be high on them.”

Derik Calhoun, the father of USC outside linebacker commit D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito, Calif./El Cerrito), immediately took to Twitter to make it known his son was still a member of the seven-man class, writing: “So we are all clear ... DJ did not decommit from USC.”

D.J. Calhoun’s high school teammate, ESPN 300 cornerback and UCLA commit Adarius Pickett, also suggested the firing would provide a much-needed boost to recruiting.

“I want to say this will hurt them, but only until they have a head coach in place,” Pickett said. “Kiffin was a real awkward guy, honestly. I never got in contact with him. I wanted to talk to him when I was on campus during a visit in the spring, but that didn’t happen.”

The timing might be the most important factor. The decision to fire Kiffin now, as opposed to after the season, could help in the pursuit of recruits committed elsewhere, such as ESPN 300 athlete and Cal commit Jaleel Wadood (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco).

“As bad as they were doing with Kiffin, it was only a matter of time,” Wadood said. “I can’t wait to see who the new head coach will be.”

Wadood’s high school teammate, Arizona cornerback commit Naijiel Hale, shared the same sentiment.

“I’m excited for USC and to see what direction they take from here,” Hale said. “This will have a huge impact. That’s all I’ll say.”

Meanwhile, USC's highest-rated pledge, ESPN 300 offensive guard Toa Lobendahn (La Habra, Calif./La Habra), had repeatedly stated his full commitment to the Trojans since making his decision in June of 2012.

That changed somewhat on Sunday with news that Kiffin had been fired.

“I’m going to be opening my recruitment,” Lobendahn said. “I’m committed, but listening to others until I know which way the program will be going. I’m evaluating.”

Juco defensive tackle Michael Wyche (Chesapeake, Va./East Los Angeles College), who committed to USC in Kiffin’s office shortly after landing a scholarship offer, was sad to read the reports Sunday.

“I was hoping Kiffin could stay, but stuff happens,” Wyche said. “It’s a business and you have to get the job done. He changed my life dramatically, though, so I have nothing but good things to say about him. I’ve got mad respect for that man and that will never change. I hope wherever he goes he will have great success. Right now, it feels like a person from my family just died.”