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USC’s Kiffin eager to poach Penn State’s Silas Redd

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It was less than 24 hours after the news conference that changed the course of Penn State football for what is likely to be the next decade or more.
 
Not quite one day had passed since the NCAA handed down what was, arguably, the heaviest penalty ever assessed to a college football program.  

There had been no complaining about the NCAA ruling.  After all, Mark Emmert and his Infractions Committee had already outlined the punishments to those charged with starting the new generation of Nittany Lion football.  They understood the ramifications of the four-year bowl ban, the 65 scholarship limit, the $60 million in fines and the amnesty provisions afforded to all of Penn State’s current players.

The first 24 hours were a time for coming to grips with the punishment while also taking the first steps in moving forward. The emotions of the last nine months have been gut-wrenching for all of those not connected to the sordid actions of the few men that did so much to remove the happy from Happy Valley.Lane Kiffin photo: Chris Williams

And that’s what probably made Tuesday morning’s phone call from Southern California to the Penn State football offices all the more piercing.

Shortly after Bill O’Brien met with his team to tell them that he was committed to them and that they could still achieve greatness as players and students at Penn State, it was announced that Lane Kiffin contacted Penn State to express his interest in O’Brien’s best player.

Kiffin, as per NCAA rules, notified Penn State of his desire to recruit Silas Redd as a possible transfer for the upcoming season.   

It seems Kiffin felt that a few hours (if it was, in fact, that long) was a healthy enough time period to let Penn State digest its NCAA fate before he looked to fill a need for his own football powerhouse.

Later on Tuesday, Kiffin took the podium at the PAC-12’s Media Day to lament his team’s lack of quality and depth at running back.

“Our No. 1 concern is our running back depth," Kiffin said. "We really have to do a good job there developing depth."  

Kiffin declined to comment about his reported interest in Silas Redd as a possible solution to his preseason #1 team’s running back shortage.

That didn’t stop Kiffin’s star quarterback, Matt Barkley, from responding to a question about possible additions from another team’s roster, “I guess it all depends on how well they adapt to USC, but I'm sure our coaching staff is concerned with all that stuff," Barkley replied. "They know what the right fit for our team would be."

Just a wild guess here, but Kiffin probably thinks that Silas Redd’s 1241 rushing yards and two remaining years of eligibility would adapt quite well and be a perfect fit in his team’s offensive backfield.

It is certainly no surprise that other coaches are making shopping lists from the Penn State roster.  In fact, it has been widely reported that Nittany Lion players are drawing interest from schools around the country.   

And while some may be surprised by Lane Kiffin jumping into the talent grab so quickly, you’ll have to forgive those of us who think this sort of situation is right up his alley.

Kiffin has never been one to back down from the opportunity to snag talented players.  His one-year tenure at Tennessee was famous for confrontations with rival coaches, NCAA Rules Compliance Staff and his own school’s administrators.  

But, when Kiffin bolted the Volunteer state to take his dream job at U.S.C., he inherited an NCAA mess similar to the one Bill O’Brien faces. There were significant scholarship reductions and free transfer provisions for his own players.  

Kiffin made no effort to hide his frustration at the poaching of his talented team by other coaches.  He described his situation by saying, “The difficult thing was, with these sanctions, we created free agency in college football. We’ve dealt with free agency that there’s no salary cap on. Our players can leave at any time, and there’s no penalty with it.”  
Silas Redd photo: Gene J. Puskar, AP
That was back in 2010, and now that Kiffin’s team has served its two-year bowl ban and maintained its national prominence with strong recruiting, ol’ Lane is busy circling the the badly wounded Penn State program like a turkey vulture.

Clearly, all is still fair in love and college football. It’s as if Lane Kiffin made his way through the receiving line at the funeral, paid his respects, and then asked the young widow what she was doing later that evening.

The sad thing for Penn State, and for the NCAA’s vision of college athletics, is that if Kiffin doesn’t sway Silas Redd to his program, there are probably dozens of other coaches preparing their own sales pitches in hopes of achieving the same goal.

Maybe Mark Emmert and the folks at NCAA headquarters rested a little easier last night.  With their punishment of Penn State, they achieved a stated goal of putting football back into its proper perspective within the college and university setting.  Surely, at campuses across America, college coaches have taken pause and reflected on more than just wins, losses, power and lucrative contracts.

That is, until they realized that Linebacker U had a talent that would fit perfectly at their own U.


Matt Babiarz was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.  He graduated from the University of Alabama, but remained a very close observer of the Philadelphia sports scene.  He recently began covering the Phillies for Philly2Philly.com.   You can also read his work at Bleacherreport.com within the Philadelphia Phillies section. 

Matt can be contacted at mattbabz@comcast.net  

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Photos:
Lane Kiffin: Chris Williams
Silas Redd: Gene J. Puskar, AP