Thursday, January 14, 2010

Change of plans

Lane Kiffin apparently won't have Norm Chow at his side after all:
Norm Chow will remain offensive coordinator at UCLA, according to UCLA officials.

Chow’s status has been in doubt the last week after USC made contact with him in an attempt to lure him back as offensive coordinator under new head coach Lane Kiffin.

Kiffin said the other day that he intends to call plays for USC "like I always have," which was probably a deal-breaker for Chow (as it should be). I don't know why he would join Kiffin to be essentially a consultant when he can continue as a true offensive coordinator at UCLA.

What does it mean for the Trojans? Well, it means Kiffin's coaching ability will be a little more relevant than expected, which may or may not be a good thing.
Let's look at what his teams have done offensively (again, the Raiders don't count, so we're talking about 2005-06 USC and 2009 Tennessee):
  • In 2005, USC finished first nationally in total offense (577 yards per game) and second in scoring (49 points per game) while becoming the first team in NCAA history with a 3,000-yard passer (Matt Leinart), two 1,000 yard rushers (Reggie Bush and LenDale White), and a 1,000-yard receiver (Dwayne Jarrett). How much of that was Kiffin and how much of it was the other guys? Hard to say. But the 2004 national championship team -- with Norm Chow as O-coordinator -- averaged 130 fewer yards and 11 fewer points per game, so there was obvious improvement.
  • In 2006, the running game plummeted to 68th nationally while the John David Booty-led passing game finished 14th in yards and 30th in efficiency. USC finished 21st in total offense (392 yards per game) and 18th in scoring (30.46 points), which isn't spectacular for USC, but keep in mind that Booty had never taken a meaningful college snap before the '06 opener and Chauncey Washington wasn't exactly Reggie Bush or LenDale White. Jarrett and Smith were about the only guys left at the skill positions, so you could argue that the '06 offense had the least talent of any in the Pete Carroll era.
  • In 2009, Tennessee finished 60th (smack dab in the middle of the FBS) in total offense and 43rd in scoring offense at 29 points per game. The running game was average (54rd), the passing game was average (43rd in yardage and 38th in efficiency) ... everything was very meh.
When you look at USC's 2006 numbers and consider that this year's Vols had Jonathan Crompton throwing to a bunch of inexperienced receivers (other than Gerald Jones) yet STILL produced more through the air than Montario Hardesty and Bryce Brown did on the ground, there's a conclusion that can be drawn: Kiffin's background as a quarterback shows up in his team's offensive results. In other words, his teams are better at throwing the ball than running the ball. This isn't necessarily good or bad, just an interesting observation going forward.

Based on the typical talent level at USC, the 2006 numbers are probably a realistic expectation (except for a slightly better running game, if for no other reason than the pure quantity of five-star running backs USC pulls in). His quarterbacks and receivers will probably be very good.

Is he Norm Chow? No. His overall lack of play-calling experience is a valid concern, as three years isn't exactly an eternity. But his offenses have ranged from elite when he has talent to average when he doesn't have much, and the talent should never be much of a problem at USC.

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