To say that Lane Kiffin has gone into a bit of a tailspin as head coach of the USC Trojans would be a massive understatement. After guiding the program through a postseason ban and emerging as the preseason No. 1 team in college football last season, Kiffin has watched his team fall off the tracks, finishing unranked in 2012 after embarrassing themselves in the Sun Bowl. Things seem only to have gotten worse to kick off this season and it’s starting to hurt Kiffin in the one spot he’s always excelled; the recruiting trail.
While Kiffin has always suffered some coaching blunder that cost his team on the field, the talent that he was able to stockpile on his rosters has always been undeniable. USC put together a historically good 2013 class that fell apart towards signing day, but the Trojans still walked away with one of the best groups in the country. As it turns out, the defections of a few in the 2013 class right before they signed on the dotted line was indicative of bigger problems coming down the pipe.
Recruits in the 2014 class have been more wary of what Kiffin is selling. The class is filling up much slower than it did last year when the Trojans were nearly capped out before the season kicked off and there are whispers among the recruits that the USC head coach is a reason NOT to sign with the Trojans. Those whispers got a lot louder following Saturday’s loss to the Washington State Cougars when four-star running back recruit Demario Richard out of Palmdale, California, tweeted that “If Kiffin Leaves USC might have a shot at getting me.”
Richard has since suspended his twitter account due to the backlash from USC fans, but the shot has been fired and it landed a direct hit into the last thing keeping Kiffin afloat. Richard’s sentiment was backed up later by Naijiel Hale, a cornerback recruit that had gotten plenty of early interest from USC before declaring for the Arizona Wildcats. The Trojans have picked his recruiting back up after several of their secondary targets have committed elsewhere, but Hale doesn’t sound interested after tweeting: “I love #USC and #USC football, don’t ever get me wrong, that’s my hometown school. Just not what I remember growing up watching.”
It’s undeniable that the USC program has fallen off with Kiffin at the helm and it can’t help Kiffin’s cause that the recruits that he has done such a good job of selling USC to are now openly talking about how far they’ve fallen. USC AD Pat Haden can stand behind Kiffin all he wants after bad losses and say that his job is secure, but if the Trojans start seeing the top recruits in their own backyard going elsewhere, that will be the last straw for Kiffin’s tenure as head coach of USC.