When interim head coach Ed Orgeron took to the podium to address the coaching situation at USC on Sunday afternoon, one thing was clear: He plans to get USC through these next eight games, and he wants to have some fun while he does it.
Around 1 p.m. PT on Sunday, USC athletic director Pat Haden addressed the shocking but altogether not surprising firing of Lane Kiffin in a live press conference and introduced Orgeron as the man to fill his shoes for the time being.
"There's never a perfect time to make change," Haden told the media, "but I believe this was the right time."
After Haden spoke, Coach Orgeron addressed the media, and a sense of a new beginning for USC became instantly evident.
"We made a recommitment that this is our season," Coach Orgeron said, looking ahead.
Orgeron is known for his fiery, boisterous personality, and Haden said that he brings the passion and energy USC needs. The players respond well to his style of coaching, and more than anything, he can inspire them to succeed in ways that Kiffin couldn't.
The interim head coach has eight games to salvage USC's season.
But is it enough time?
Without the cloud of mediocrity hanging over it, USC is now free to start anew, and with a new mentality. Orgeron does indeed bring exactly what USC needs: a jolt of energy and a clean slate.
"I want us to have some fun over these next eight games and let the chips fall where they may," Orgeron said in the presser.
Orgeron is in a good position to succeed at USC, and the most obvious reason is that he isn't Lane Kiffin.
Fans and the national media alike have long soured from Kiffin, what with his particularly bland style of play-calling and identity-less coaching. Fans—and more importantly, boosters—wanted him out, and they got their wish.
Coach Orgeron also does not have heavy expectations placed upon him, nor will he face the extreme scrutiny from the LA media. Plus, Orgeron threw the media a bone: He extended an olive branch to them, saying at the end of his statement that he looks forward to seeing the media at practice next week, an indication that USC could be reopening its doors to practice coverage.
All he has to do is get USC through the season, and it will suffice. It's a bonus that he has the kind of gumption and leadership skills that could help USC bounce back.
He's molded the USC defensive line into a contender and has had a hand in the larger new identity of the defense as a whole. He could have that same kind of impact on the offense now that it is under his guidance.
USC has always succeeded under a defensive-minded coach (think Pete Carroll), and now that he has talent that he can work with, he could find the success as a head coach that evaded him at Ole Miss.
Of course, it won't be easy.
USC is still battling crippling depth issues, which are the bigger problem for USC than who is calling the plays. With only 56 scholarship guys available, there's only so much he can do. Still, he stands in a better position to do more with limited resources than Kiffin.
Two of USC's senior captains, offensive lineman Marcus Martin and linebacker Devon Kennard, also spoke at the press conference and alluded to the new possibilities of success under Orgeron, whom they commonly refer to as "Coach O."
Orgeron has the players on his side, which is something that Kiffin arguably did not have. They too echoed Coach Orgeron's sentiment about having much to prove and to play for in the next eight games.
USC has officially moved on from the Lane Kiffin era, as signaled by the press conference.
With new and potentially better changes now in place, the Trojans have a chance to finish the season strong and put their best foot forward when they ultimately begin their search for a new head coach.
Depending on how Orgeron's stint ends, he could make the USC head-coaching job look extremely appealing, which Haden will absolutely want as the Trojans go about recruiting not just a new head coach, but new athletes for the class of 2014.
If nothing else, Coach Orgeron's brand of football will be fun and something the fans will file back into the Coliseum for. That simple fact was one of the staples of USC under Pete Carroll and an afterthought under Lane Kiffin.
It's been a long time coming for Trojan fans and players alike, but things could—and should—finally be turning around for USC.
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