Notes and quotes from Trojans coach Lane Kiffin's conference call Sunday looking back at USC’s 50-0 win over UCLA at the Coliseum and looking forward to the offseason and next year:
As always, Kiffin said he didn't notice much difference while watching the tape a day after the game, but he did have some positive things to say about the overall development of his team in relation to the caliber of Saturday's win. He was pleased, essentially, that the Trojans' best game came in their last -- especially considering the circumstances and that USC knew when its last game was going to be from the start. "To have a game like that in the middle of the season is always good, but to do it in the last game..." Kiffin said, trailing off.
Kiffin also said the 2011 Trojans made him better as a coach and a person, saying that he had taken a lot from the group's perseverance over this season and last -- but especially this season. As he showed in his postgame news conference, the 36-year-old coach was truly emotional about the victory and not afraid to show it. "Whenever people put a lot of energy and passion into something, you get more out of that and you get a feeling of emotion," Kiffin said. "The more you do this and the more you’re around, the more you see the players and you know these guys will be telling this story forever."
He did take the opportunity to take one last parting shot at the NCAA at the conclusion of the season, questioning once again the fairness of banning USC from bowl games because of Reggie Bush's misdeeds several years ago. He used the same argument he has used in the past. "What was the purpose of taking away bowl games from these 18-year-old kids who were in fifth grade when those things took place?" Kiffin asked. "It’s really a shame."
Who's better, Robert Woods or Marqise Lee? Kiffin seems to think it's the latter, calling it "pretty amazing" that Woods is a co-favorite for the Biletnikoff Award with Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon and is arguably the second-best receiver on his own team. Is it a motivating tactic, meant to get Woods to come back with a vengeance in what will likely be his final college season next year? Perhaps, but Kiffin can at least make the argument that Lee's better. In the final five games of 2011, Lee totaled 703 yards -- good for 140-plus per game -- and seven touchdowns. His 1,143 yards on the year are 16th in the country. But Woods was clearly bothered by ankle, shoulder and elbow injuries this year, which we'll address later.
One storyline to follow: Kiffin said Sunday the Trojans were the "most disliked" program in the country entering into the 2011 season but are no longer anywhere near that after their 10-win performance. He said he had been talking to a number of people around college football over the last few weeks and had come to a consensus that USC no longer fits that ball heading into 2012. "They got the entire country to really fall in love with them," Kiffin said of his Trojans.
Two players who were expected to be seniors on the 2011 team have decisions to make about their futures this offseason in defensive tackle Armond Armstead and cornerback T.J. Bryant. Kiffin says he expects Bryant to transfer to an FCS school after he graduates in May so he can play somewhere for a season, but Armstead's decision isn't as clear-cut. He could transfer in a similar manner to Bryant, he could come back for his fifth year and presumably get cleared to play for the Trojans or declare for the NFL draft and hope to prove himself to teams in the pre-draft process. “He has a big decision to make here," Kiffin said. "He’s a great player and we would love to have him back here next year and have him make a run with us. Or he’ll make a decision and go be a great NFL player.”
Final notes: Kiffin said a number of players would be undergoing minor surgeries in the offseason, including Woods (ankle) and running back Amir Carlisle (knee). ... Kiffin said he hoped to bring in five or six mid-year enrollees in January -- either junior-college players or early high-school enrollees. ... Kiffin said he texted quarterback Matt Barkley "first thing in the morning" Sunday to remind him that he's only 19 touchdown passes away from tying Matt Leinart's career mark.