Matt Leinart leads USC onto field for Stanford game (Video)

If there’s one bright side to Matt Leinart not being on an NFL team, it’s that he’s able to support his alma mater on Saturdays. The USC Trojans took advantage of that by having their former Heisman Trophy winner lead the team onto the field before Saturday’s game against the Stanford Cardinal.

Leinart was as pumped as I’ve ever seen him. He got the team fired up, and it seemed to work — the Trojans scored on their first drive of the game, though they did miss the extra point and surrender a touchdown on the ensuing possession.

I went to UCLA but, speaking honestly, seeing Leinart out there even fired me up. If that was Ed Orgeron’s idea, it was a good one. I mean look at how hyped Leinart was:

Matt Leinart USC

USC reportedly willing to pay $6 million for next coach

Pat Haden USCThe USC Trojans are willing to spend big money on their next football coach, which should not come as a surprise.

ESPN’s Travis Haney reported on Friday that an industry source told him USC is willing to spend up to $6 million on its next coach. That meshes with what LA Daily News reporter Scott Wolf said. In the same article where Wolf reported that Kevin Sumlin is the school’s top target, he also said USC could probably double Sumlin’s current $3.1 million salary.

Nick Saban currently is the highest-paid coach in the country at over $5.5 million, per USA Today (full database). He reportedly will surpass the $6 million mark if Bama wins the SEC championship game and plays in the BCS National Championship Game this season. Mack Brown is the other coach close to that mark. He’s reportedly earning $5.4 million this season. A number of other coaches, such as Brady Hoke, Les Miles, Bob Stoops and Urban Meyer, are making in the $4 million range.

USC is one of the premier college football programs in the country and has an excellent history and tradition of winning. They’re looking to return the program to the levels of success enjoyed under Pete Carroll. $6 million per season for a coach would be a worthwhile investment for the school if they’re able to return to that level of national prominence.

Helmet smack to College Football Talk

USC scores on three punts in first half against Cal (Video)

Nelson Agholor puntIf you’re wondering how the visiting USC Trojans’ win over Cal on Saturday turned into such a blowout, look no further than special teams.

The Trojans tied an NCAA record by scoring on three punt returns, and they did it all in the first half. As you can see in the video, Nelson Agholor scored twice on punt returns — once for 75 yards and the other for 93 yards. The Trojans also scored on a blocked punt returned by Josh Shaw 14 yards for a TD in the second quarter. Their efforts tied a record set by Oklahoma’s Antonio Perkins, who returned three punts for touchdowns in a 2003 win over UCLA.

USC won the game 62-28 and is now 7-3, while Cal drops to an ugly 1-9. Take away two of those touchdowns, and the difference in score is much closer to the 18-point line the Trojans were favored by.

It’s been a long, disappointing season in Berkeley.

Kevin Sumlin reportedly USC’s top choice as head coach

Kevin SumlinKevin Sumlin is at the top of USC’s list when it comes to their search for a new head coach, according to a report.

The Los Angeles Daily News’ Scott Wolf says the Trojans are looking to make the hire next month and that the current Texas A&M coach is their top target. Sumlin went 35-17 as head coach of Houston from 2008-2011, including a 12-1 season in his final year. He then went to Texas A&M and went 11-2 last season and is 7-2 this season.

Sumlin has made the most of his quarterbacks at both stops; he had Case Keenum at Houston (the team went 5-7 the season Keenum got hurt), and he’s had Johnny Manziel at A&M.

Wolf says Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, Boise State’s Chris Petersen, former Raiders and Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden, and Jack Del Rio have been mentioned the most as candidates.

Franklin went an impressive 9-4 last season with Vanderbilt, which is generally considered a lower-tier program in the SEC. Petersen has long been considered one of the top coaches in the country and has gone 90-11 at Boise State since 2006, but he has been reluctant to leave his current position. Del Rio used to coach the Jacksonville Jaguars and is currently the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos. He’s a former USC player and reportedly would not leave his current position until after the season. Gruden hasn’t coached since being fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2008 season. He seems happy in his current role as an ESPN NFL analyst, though he recently said he would like to get back into coaching.

Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith has also been mentioned in association with the job.

Would Sumlin leave A&M for USC? He has a lot of momentum going with the Aggies. Their donations are up, their new facilities are coming, and they have been rolling. But he’s also likely to lose Manziel after the season, so it wouldn’t be a bad time to bolt. Would Sumlin want to leave the SEC — the top conference in the country — for the Pac-12? Maybe considering USC is historically a better program than A&M and would likely to pay Sumlin accordingly.

USC claims people posing as Trojans representatives in coaching talks

Pat Haden USCUSC claimed on Monday that unauthorized people posing as representatives of the football program have reached out to coaches regarding the Trojans’ coaching vacancy.

Here’s what the school wrote on their athletic site:

USC has been alerted that individuals posing as USC representatives made overtures to two coaches regarding the Trojans’ head coaching position.

In one instance, a person falsely identifying himself as a high-ranking member of the USC athletic department attempted to make contact several times with the Denver Broncos’ coaching staff to discuss the Trojan job. That person has been identified by USC and appropriate action is being taken.

In another, someone claiming to represent USC reached out to a contact of former NFL head coach and current NBC broadcaster Tony Dungy, who said on today’s Dan Patrick Show that he had no interest in the Trojan job. That person, again not a representative of USC, also has been identified and USC is in the process of contacting that individual.

Dungy, who is an analyst for NBC Sports, was a guest on “The Dan Patrick Show” Monday and said the Trojans reached out to him to gauge his interest.

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USC players reportedly happy to see Lane Kiffin fired

Lane KiffinUSC Trojans fans weren’t the only ones happy to see Lane Kiffin fired on Sunday. Apparently many of the players were, too.

Los Angeles Daily News Trojans football reporter Scott Wolf said on Sunday that one player told him Kiffin “lost the locker room.” That’s not a surprise considering the team went 7-6 last season and got slaughtered in the Sun Bowl.

USC really should have fired Kiffin after that debacle. Not only did his players get into a fight following that game, but Kiffin and one of his assistants did too.

Then in the offseason, Matt Barkley was critical of Kiffin, saying the coach focused too much on Marqise Lee, which came as a detriment to the rest of the offense.

Of course things did not improve this season. USC had the home loss to Washington State in the second week of the season, narrowly escaped Utah State, and then got crushed by Arizona State on the road. They were 3-2 overall and 0-2 in conference when Kiffin was dropped.

One player reportedly told Wolf that Kiffin being fired was a weight lifted off them. You can interpret that many ways, but it’s clear the player felt that having Kiffin gone was good for the team.

Rich Hammond of the OC Register says athletic director Pat Haden said the reception from the players was “great” when he met with them to share the news.

Wolf also said a player told him he resented how Kiffin would only focus on certain players, like Barkley.

Whether they didn’t like the way he coached or just thought it would be better for the program if he were gone, it’s obvious many players were happy to see Kiffin fired. We also know there are recruits who wanted him gone, too.

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Jack Del Rio supposedly spotted in LA, meeting with USC?

Former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach and current Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio was spotted at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday, according to a tweet from University of Houston tennis coach Patrick Sullivan.

Here’s what Sullivan tweeted:

Jack Del RioSullivan speculated that Del Rio could have been in LA to meet with USC about the football team’s coaching vacancy, which is exactly how everyone should interpret the spotting.

The Trojans fired Lane Kiffin on Sunday morning following the team’s 62-41 loss to Arizona State on Saturday night. Del Rio’s Broncos crushed the Philadelphia Eagles 52-20 on Sunday in Denver.

Del Rio, who was an All-American linebacker at USC and played baseball at the school, has been mentioned as one of the candidates to fill the vacancy created by Kiffin’s firing. Del Rio was the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003-2011. His career record was 68-71, and he led the team to the playoffs twice, where they went 1-2. Del Rio was also mentioned as a candidate for the job that went to Kiffin after Pete Carroll left for Seattle.

The Broncos ranked fourth in the NFL last season after allowing just 18.1 points per game. The team’s defense has played well through four games this season despite not having top players Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil.

Del Rio’s contract expires after the season. He reportedly would stay with the Broncos through the season, meaning USC would have to wait for him to join the program if they want him as coach.

“There isn’t anything to say. It’s all speculation at this point, I’ve got a job to do here, my focus is right there,” Del Rio said Sunday, via ESPN.

In addition to Del Rio, Jeff Fisher has been mentioned as a candidate for the job. Like Del Rio, he is a former USC player and longtime NFL coach. He is said to be uninterested in the job. Vanderbilt’s James Franklin is also said to be a top target of the Trojans.