Since he took the job as head football coach at the University of Southern California Lane Kiffin has been a busy man. He deftly avoided being lynched in Knoxville, dodged a fistfight with the perpetually annoying T.J. Simers, has managed to solidify all 14 of the Trojans’ committed recruits and make inroads with most of the uncommitted targets. And that was just his first week.
Now he’s finally starting to put his coaching staff together. Other than defensive line coach Ed Orgeron and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, the Trojans went an entire week without a staff. That changed today when USC announced the hiring of James Cregg, who was previously the offensive line coach at Tennessee. The release doesn’t say what position on the staff Cregg will take over, but one would assume he’d be the offensive line coach. Last season Cregg did a phenomenal job with Tennessee’s o-line, and the few Vols fans I know are devastated that he will not be back. The 36-year-old Cregg was at Tennessee for a year, before that he was an offensive line assistant with the Raiders for two seasons while Kiffin was there. Cregg is from Norco, California and was an All-WAC offensive lineman at Colorado State.
While I think Kiffin has done an excellent job handling himself so far (to be fair, my expectations couldn’t have been lower), it seems to me a coaching staff is an important part of any successful program. It’s about time he started focusing on that and letting Orgeron do what he does best, reel in recruits. Lots of kids will be wary of committing to USC if they don’t have a position coach, since that’s the guy they’ll spend the most time with over their college careers.
With Cregg in the fold Kiffin still has a ton of spots to fill. The Trojans are without position coaches for: quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, receivers, linebackers and defensive backs. At the quarterbacks coaching spot, most people close to the program suggest the hire will be the nominal offensive coordinator, though they expect Kiffin to call plays.
Kiffin would do well to retain several coaches from Pete Carroll’s staff. Running backs coach Todd McNair is an excellent recruiter who has done well managing USC’s backfield depth, while tight ends coach Brennan Carroll has overseen the development of Fred Davis, Anthony McCoy and Dominique Byrd. He’s also very popular with the players and has done an excellent job as recruiting coordinator.
Rocky Seto, who was Carroll’s defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator, would be an excellent guy to retain as well. No one is as dedicated to the program as Seto, he’s been on the staff since 1999 and prior to that he played for the Trojans. I’m not sure if he’d take a demotion to just coaching the secondary, but if they gave him an assistant head coach title or something to that effect, it might sweeten the deal.
Whatever direction he decides to go, Kiffin must act quickly. To reel in any recruits on the fence he’ll have to show he has a plan for their future. That plan starts with who will be coaching and developing them on a daily basis.