By Zac Ellis
USC coach Lane Kiffin's job security has been a hotly debated topic this offseason following the Trojans' mighty struggles in 2012. Thursday, USC athletic director Pat Haden made it clear that he doesn't share those doubts. In fact, Haden embraced his beleaguered coach.
The USC athletic department released a "State of Football" video featuring Haden, who took the opportunity to break down the expectations he has for Trojans football in 2013. Throughout much of the video, Haden expressed his unbridled support for Kiffin.
I anticipate the media will ask me if our football coach is on the hot seat this year. Here is my answer, and it will be my answer whenever I'm asked: He is not. I'm behind Lane Kiffin 100 percent. I have great confidence in him. He's a very hard-working, detail-oriented coach. He's a dynamic play-caller in my estimation, and he's an exceptional recruiter. He knows USC and he knows what it takes to be successful here.
Kiffin's Trojans entered last season as a top-five team in most polls and a BCS title favorite, but stumbled to a 7-6 record, including a Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech. Quarterback Matt Barkley slipped to a fourth-round draft pick after being graded as a high first-round prospect the prior year.
Earlier this month, SI.com's Stewart Mandel included Kiffin on his list of the country's five worst college football coaches. Mandel rated the 2012 Trojans as the nation's biggest flop team.
Any confidence inspired by a breakthrough 10-2 campaign in 2011 was shattered by last year's 7-6 implosion, when Kiffin's USC squad -- without question -- finished as the biggest underachiever in the country.