The Kentucky Wildcats and USC Trojans are not traditional rivals, but there’s been a bit of back and forth between the teams this off-season. UK signed former USC recruit Jason Hatcher on National Signing Day, and now the Trojans have hired the Wildcats’ former offensive line coach, Mike Summers.
Technically, even though Summers was on the UK sidelines last season, the Trojans actually hired him away from Western Kentucky. Summers was part of former Kentucky coach Joker Phillips‘ staff, and when new coach Mike Stoops brought in his own people, Summers reunited with Bobby Petrino at WKU.
All three schools in the Mike Summers triangle – USC, WKU and Kentucky – have undergone extensive coaching staff changes this off-season. Kentucky’s staff was overhauled when Stoops replaced Phillips, and when Willie Taggart left the Hilltoppers to become the head coach at South Florida, he brought four WKU assistants with him. Petrino restocked with his own coaches when he replaced Taggart, and USC head coach Lane Kiffin reshuffled the deck for the Trojans after 2012′s disappointing year and will have an almost completely new coaching staff next season.
The job with USC has a higher profile than the one Summers left at WKU, but will he have as much success in Los Angeles as he might have if he’d stayed in Lexington?
Both teams finished with 7-6 records in 2012, but those records meant very different things to the two teams. A 7-5 regular season record sent the Hilltoppers to the first FBS bowl game in WKU history. Out on the West Coast, USC’s 7-5 regular season culminated in an embarrassing loss to then 6-7 Georgia Tech and was a measure of just how far the preseason No. 1 team had fallen.
Summers, whom Petrino praised as being at teaching and at uniting the offensive line, will be expected to help shore up a line that is heavy on talent but is still gaining experience and becoming a more cohesive unit. The Trojans were seventh in the Pac-12 in rushing last season and despite the talent at running back with 1,000 yard rushers Curtis McNeal and Silas Redd, often struggled to establish the run.
The USC O-line did, on the other hand, allow the fewest sacks in the conference last season, and James Cregg, who coached the line in 2012, is expected to remain on staff.