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Kennedy Polamalu’s Firing Comes as a Shock to Recruits, Players

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The turnover continues at USC with the news that running backs coach and assistant offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu has been relieved of his duties. Rumors had swirled that Polamalu might take a job with an NFL team, and now he’s almost certain to find a place on an NFL sideline quickly.

It might take a little longer for USC’s shell-shocked players to regroup, particularly the recruits who just made their official decision to play for the Trojans two days ago.

Ty Isaac, a five-star running back prospect from Shorewood, Ill., tweeted one word: “Disappointed.”

His fellow freshman RB Justin Davis, who has been on campus as an early enrollee, posted:

I’m guessing some of those thoughts are about head coach Lane Kiffin obviously waiting until his recruiting class was signed, sealed, and delivered before announcing he was cutting a popular coach.

Polamalu, the uncle of former USC star and current Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Polamalu, played fullback at USC in the early 1980s.

Soma Vainuku, currently a fullback for the Trojans, tweeted: “This can’t be happening…”

Vainuku was one of a number of players who voiced their feelings – generally shock and disappointment – on Twitter.

Incoming receiver Darreus Rogers, originally a member of the 2012 class, tweeted: “Tell me its not true” and Michael Hutchings, a linebacker who just signed with the Trojans, wrote: “My weekend has been officially ruined.”

It wasn’t just the current players and incoming recruits who were upset about the move. Former Trojans tailback Stafon Johnson blasted Kiffin’s decision to can Polamalu:

Former running back Marc Tyler had even more to say, calling the change “a joke” and going way over Twitter’s 140-character limit in his praise for “Coach P.”

 

Polamalu will land on his feet back in the NFL, in potentially a better situation than he was in at USC – but what about the rest of the program?

Polamalu is the fourth Trojans’ assistant to make his exit after the 7-6 season. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin announced his “resignation” after the regular season and linebackers coach Scottie Hazelton left to take the DC job at Nevada. Secondary coach Marvin Sanders was fired after the Trojans brought in Clancy Pendergast as their new defensive coordinator, but none of those changes were met with the level of emotion that Polamalu’s dismissal seems to have spurred among current and former players.

Former USC linebacker Malcolm Smith referred to Polamalu on Twitter as Kiffin’s “fall man.” It’s a reasonable observation. Considering the amount of elite talent on the Trojans’ offense last season, they drastically underperformed – but Kiffin called most of the plays.

USC beat reporter Scott Wolf has speculated that the move sets USC up to hire former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford as offensive coordinator and relieve Kiffin of his play-calling duties, but honestly, who really knows what the heck is going on in Troy these days?

It certainly doesn’t seem to be the players, and while coaches leave or are fired with some regularity in football and players learn to adjust, there were already rumors of unrest in the USC locker room. Kiffin’s hanging on by a thread that’s getting thinner by the day, and if he loses the team’s trust heading into a critical year, he might as well follow Polamalu out the door now.