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Lane Kiffin to USC

The hiring of Lane Kiffin, 34, as head coach at USC gives the Huskies, formerly called the Sun Dodgers, a chance to make hay while the sun shines -- Sark's time in the sun, his time to make up more ground on USC -- while Kiffin is busy huffing and puffing at the miasma surrounding Troy, trying to rebuild another powerful football team in the interim.

Kiffin brings some baggage with him: his acrimonious parting of the ways with Al Davis, some secondary NCAA violations at Tennessee, and foot-in-the-mouth disease, having called Urban Meyer a cheat -- for which he had to apologize. 

This morning, Bill Plaschke, columnist at the LA Times, is calling Kiffin a lightweight for USC's heavyweight program. Plaschke seems to have it in for Mike Garrett, Troy's AD, for whatever reason.

Plaschke writes, "What was Mike Garrett thinking?

"This question, of course, is based on the large and dangerous assumption that he was actually thinking."

The good stuff Kiffin brings to the table are in the personages of Ed Orgeron, a great recruiter, Lane's father, Monte, developer of the famed Tampa Bay Cover 2 defense, and the potential theft of Norm Chow from UCLA, who is its offensive coordinator.

Kiffin, a good recruiter himself, and Orgeron give the Trojans a fight-on-fighting chance of surviving a couple of potentially lean years depending on whatever sanctions the NCAA imposes on them later this year, as most people expect.

"Meat Market," a book written by Bruce Feldmen, describes Orgeron's recruiting days when he coached Ole Miss from 2005-2007 -- impressive stuff. Currently, rivals.com ranks Tennessee's 2010 class ninth-best in the nation.

"Coach Orgeron transfers his ferocious competitive spirit into all phases of his coaching, particularly as a recruiter. He's relentless in his effort and comprehensive approach to the whole recruiting process" (Pete Carroll).

Persuasive and down to cases, Orgeron can talk a starving dog off a meat truck. He'll also coach the defensive line, a specialty of his in his previous stint at USC.

However, Kiffin's coaching record makes for an easy target: 5-15 with the Oakland Raiders in 2007 and 2008; and a 7-6 record, with a loss to UCLA, at Tennessee in the 2009 season.

With less than sterling credentials, Pete Carroll had  a 33-31-NFL-record hidden in the trunk of his car when he drove down Exposition Boulevard nine seasons ago to shake hands with Garrett, which eventually bolstered Garrett's résumé.

Like a vulture, Plaschke pecked away at Kiffin's résumé in this morning's Times, writing, "remember that he led them to only a 7-6 record (the Vols) with nearly as many minor NCAA infractions as big plays."

Secondary (minor) NCAA violations are as commonplace in college football as are the absence of mea-culpas in prison yards, Steve Sarkisian incurring three of them in his first year at Washington. Kiff had twice as many as Sark, posting six with the Vols, which he has said was more or less in keeping with the rest of the league. 

As subscriptions continue to decline, the Times can only hope that the hiring of Kiffin will provide it with future stories that have legs. Plaschke, perhaps, should twitter Garrett and apologize to him the next time he goes jogging.

In addressing the media yesterday, Garrett said, "You guys take liberties and you guys are kind of like script writers now and then. I don't think Pete (Carroll) and I ever had a strained relationship, nor did we ever argue, nor did we ever raise voices."

Potentially good stuff for UW, though, since Kiffin's hiring raises a question mark. The Trojans may suffer a hiccup or two while Kiffin matures as their head coach, the Huskies suffering more than indigestion waiting for Rick Neuheisel to mature.

Richard Linde can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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