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Lane Kiffin defends Matt Barkley, rips USC defense coached by his father

Former USC quarterback Matt Barkley may have made a mistake by returning to school for his senior season last year. Barkley was once seen as a lock to go early in the first round of the NFL Draft, but injuries and other circumstances have resulted in his stock taking a tumble. However, Lane Kiffin insists Barkley is still a first-round prospect.

While it’s not surprising to hear Barkley’s former coach toot his horn, it is a little puzzling to hear Kiffin defend Barkley at the expense of his defense. A defense which, by the way, was coached by his father, Monte Kiffin.

“I think he’s going to be a great starting quarterback in the NFL, and the film shows it,” Kiffin told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Wednesday. “The plays he makes, all the throws he’s made here, the leadership qualities … I’ve said this before: If Matt Barkley had the defense that Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer had, Matt Barkley would have won the Heisman Trophy just like they did. He would have had the winning records they had.”

The Trojans had a number of issues last year during the course of their unprecedented collapse, and defense was certainly one of them. Considering Monte has resigned from USC and been hired as the defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys, I suppose the only thing Lane could be putting a strain on is the next Kiffin family reunion.

Kiffin was so determined to boost the public perception of Barkley that he even called out one USC player by name, noting that if not for a certain mistake Barkley could have led the Trojans to a win over Andrew Luck and Stanford in 2011.

“Andrew threw an interception for a touchdown and, their very next drive we stop them, and [safety] T.J. McDonald gets called for a head-to-head personal foul that keeps the drive alive,” Kiffin recalled. “Is that Matt Barkley’s fault? If that flag’s not thrown and we stop them right there, you go, ‘Man, Matt just beat Andrew Luck.’ When I remember Matt, I think of all that stuff.”

We get it, coach. You feel that USC lost in spite of Barkley, not because of him. Easy on the family and former player bashing.

Kennedy Polamalu and Lane Kiffin reportedly got into fight before bowl game

Kennedy PolamaluThe recent firing of running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu by USC head coach Lane Kiffin came as a surprise to most people. Kennedy was the only former Trojan player on staff, and he was considered to be a top recruiter. Though his job title listed him as offensive coordinator, that position was held mostly in name since Kiffin called the plays. But it sounds like Polamalu clashed with Kiffin, leading to his dismissal.

The Daily News’ Scott Wolf reported late Friday evening that the two had a “heated argument” on Dec. 29, two days before the team’s 21-7 Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech. Wolf described the incident as a “fallout.”

Kiffin kept Polamalu on staff through national signing day Feb. 6, but he was fired two days later. Wolf says Polamalu learned of his firing by reading the news on the Internet, and that Kiffin never called him. Wolf quotes a source who says that Kiffin may have felt threatened by Polamalu’s outspoken nature.

Since we do not know what happened between the two, it’s hard to say whether the firing was justified. Based on his recruiting success — Polamalu was instrumental in USC offering a scholarship to star wide receiver Marqise Lee — it seems strange that he would be fired. It also feels wrong that Polamalu read about his firing and still hasn’t heard from Kiffin.

Photo via USC athletics

USC players reportedly brawled in locker room after Sun Bowl loss

USC entered the season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll, and what followed was one of the most disappointing seasons in recent history for the program. A 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl was an appropriate end to the Trojans’ 7-6 season. So was the alleged brawl that went down in the locker room after the game.

According to the Los Angeles Daily News, about 10-15 players were involved in a locker room fight that started when a group of freshmen questions the seniors’ leadership and whether or not they gave it their all in the loss.

“It was one of the worst things I’ve seen in a locker room,” an unnamed player said.

According to a separate report from ESPN.com, it was a “flat-out brawl” that started when one of the team’s younger players was “bad-mouthing Matt Barkley.” Barkley downplayed the incident when speaking with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd.

“I would say tempers flared, yeah, but that’s football,” Barkley said. “It’s an emotional game and when you end your season on a negative note like that, emotions are going to be high. Guys were expressing their opinions, for better or worse, but we had it under control. It was nothing to be alarmed about.”

Another unnamed player told ESPN that it was “pure chaos” when he walked into the locker room.

Lane Kiffin could not be reached for comment, and you have rocks in your head if you think the guy who cuts press conferences short when reporters ask about injuries is going to get into detail about a fight in the locker room. But the story isn’t all that hard to believe, just as it isn’t difficult to imagine a group of seniors not giving it their all for a December bowl game when they came into the season thinking national championship. Typically frustrations boil over at some point when a season goes down the tubes like USC’s did.

Robert Woods seems bitter that Lane Kiffin didn’t get him the ball enough

robert-woodsUSC junior wide receiver Robert Woods announced after Monday’s Sun Bowl that he would be foregoing his senior season to enter the NFL draft. The announcement came as no surprise for a few reasons. One, Woods had three big seasons for USC and had little left to accomplish in college. Two, he became a secondary option on the offense behind sophomore Marqise Lee, and he probably didn’t find the prospect of returning to that situation too intriguing when he could go to the NFL instead.

Woods says his diminished role didn’t play a big part in his decision, but his actual comments suggest otherwise.

“Not much,” Woods reportedly responded when asked how much of a factor Lee’s ascent played in his decision. “I mean if the coaches wanted to keep me another year they would have probably got me the ball, so that had nothing to do with play calling or anything. It was just, that’s just how it went this whole year. So that had nothing to do with it, but I just feel like the coaches prepared me.”

So my diminished role didn’t have much to do with my decision to leave, but if the coaches wanted to keep me they could have gotten me the ball more. That sounds like someone who is bothered by his decrease in targets this season.

What’s interesting is that Matt Barkley made similar comments in December. Barkley said he felt the team focused on Lee too much at times. Lee had 112 catches compared to 73 for Woods. Head coach and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin disagreed with Barkley.

I guess we can just add this to the list of gripes Trojans fans have with Kiffin.

H/T SbB Live

Sun Bowl official botched missed field goal call, had it overturned (Video)

This is precisely why we have instant replay. During the first quarter of the Sun Bowl between USC and Georgia Tech on Monday, USC kicker Andre Heidari clearly missed what should have been a relatively easy 37-yard field goal. The only problem was the official standing underneath the left upright didn’t see it that way, and he signaled that the kick was good.

After an animated protest from Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, the play was reviewed and overturned. As you can see from the photo below, the ball clearly passed over the upright and missed wide left:

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USC reportedly was an hour later for Sheriff’s dinner at Sun Bowl

Calling USC’s football season a disappointment would be a vast understatement. From No. 1 in the preseason polls to fifth-place in the Pac-12, nobody expected the Trojans to be playing their last game of the season in the Sun Bowl. But, alas, here we are, and the Trojans don’t appear to be enthusiastic about their situation.

First it was linebacker Tony Burnett ripping the city of El Paso and later apologizing. On Wednesday, it was the team reportedly showing up an hour late for the Sheriff’s Posse Dinner:

The Sheriff’s Posse Dinner is part of the pre-Bowl festivities leading up to Monday’s game between USC and Georgia Tech. The Trojans were so late that El Paso Times reporter Duke Keith says Georgia Tech left.

The only plausible explanation for USC’s tardiness comes from the Orange County Register’s Rich Hammond, who says USC’s practice started late and ended late, while Georgia Tech didn’t practice.

I’m guessing Lane Kiffin, despite his obvious time management problems against Notre Dame, does indeed own a watch.

Don’t be surprised if the Yellow Jackets consider this a slight and use it as motivation in the game.

Matt Barkley thinks USC focused on Marqise Lee too much; Kiffin disagrees

Matt Barkley said this week that USC’s offense focused on Marqise Lee too much at times this season, but Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin disagrees.

“At times though we focused too much on him as a team and we took away from other great playmakers like Robert (Woods) and our tight ends who were phenomenal players to where defenses saw that and kind of overcrowded Marqise,” Barkley said on “The Dan Patrick Show” Monday. “He still managed to make plays. I think we could have done a better job of utilizing other players.”

Barkley said that in response to Patrick, who was gushing over Lee and calling him the best player in college football this season.

On Wednesday, Kiffin was asked about Barkley’s comments and disagreed with them.

“No I don’t think that’s true,” Kiffin said via the Los Angeles Times. “Basically, Marqise Lee had one more catch than Robert Woods did the year before, so when you have players like that you want to make sure they’re touching the ball.”

Lee had 112 catches for 1,680 yards and 14 touchdowns in 12 games. Woods had 73 catches for 816 yards and 11 touchdowns, which was well shy of the 111 catches, 1,292 yards, and 15 touchdowns he racked up his sophomore season. No other player had more than 27 receptions in USC’s offense.

It seems like Barkley has a point, especially considering that he threw a career-high 15 interceptions. Maybe Kiffin should reconsider Barkley’s comments.

You can see Barkley’s interview with Patrick below. Some of the other notable things he said were that the high expectations for the team may have gotten to them, and that he did not have any regrets about returning to school for his senior season. He also thinks Johnny Manziel is most deserving of the Heisman Trophy. The parts about Lee begin around the 11:50 mark.

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