USC coach Lane Kiffin said Tuesday he was unaware of former assistant coach Willie Mack Garza’s alleged payment to Houston-based talent scout Will Lyles in July 2009, as outlined by a Yahoo! Sports report released Monday.
Garza, who resigned as USC’s secondary coach on Sept. 1 after citing personal issues “unrelated to USC,” is said to have wired $1,500 to Lyles to pay for plane tickets for an unofficial recruiting visit made by five-star running back recruit Lache Seastrunk.
“All I can say is that, the alleged incident, I had no knowledge of [it] or knowledge of a relationship at all,” said Kiffin, who acknowledged he had read the report. “I have been and always have been committed to doing things the right way and operating with the NCAA. That’s all I’ve got on it.”
When asked whether it was commonplace for a head coach or a recruiting coordinator, a capacity in which USC defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron was serving at the time, to be unaware of such an arrangement Kiffin offered a brief response.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know what people do.”
It is unknown whether the NCAA will re-open an investigation against Kiffin that dates back to his time at Tennessee from December 2008 to January 2010. Kiffin, however, declined to comment further.
“I can’t respond in any way to any of those questions,” Kiffin said. “I said what I said about knowing anything about it or anything having to do with that relationship or any of the things that are alleged.”
Despite losing in a rout in its first road game of the year at Arizona State, Kiffin made note of the team’s improved focus in its first practice heading into its matchup with Arizona on Saturday.
“[Practice] was much better than last Tuesday,” Kiffin said. “Guys came out with a good reaction to not playing well in the fourth quarter of last week.”
The Trojans hope to commit fewer turnovers in the red zone and penalties, which have been their Achilles’ heel through four games this season. Kiffin attributed such mistakes to the young and inexperienced players on the Trojan roster.
“There are really two steps to get over: The first is going through a game period,” Kiffin said. “The next one is going on the road.”
Junior safety T.J. McDonald was charged with three personal fouls following controversial hits to Sun Devil players Saturday.
“The penalty was unfortunate, but the fuel that comes behind it is something that we can all rally behind,” McDonald said.
McDonald stated he had no intention of injuring opponents.
“We knew they were going to come out and play a physical ball game,” he said. “That was one thing I knew coming into the game is that I had to play physical.”
With Arizona senior quarterback Nick Foles leading another strong passing attack, the Trojans are not planning to change their playing style.
“If receivers come across the middle, I’m not going to change a thing,” McDonald said. “I just try to be as physical as I can, that’s the only way I know how to play the game.”
This season, converting third-downs has been problematic for the offense so far.
“We need to correct things so we are not putting ourselves in bad situations,” junior quarterback Matt Barkley said.
Barkley added the Trojan offense needs to work on effective play making.
With a lackluster performance following a record-tying game, Barkley claims his most recent performance has not had an effect on his confidence heading into the fifth game of the season.
“You can take a step back and look at what happened but it doesn’t affect it at all,” Barkley said. “If anything, it might raise for me to be more confident.”
The last time Arizona visited, the Trojans lost 21-17.
“This is an exciting game for us to be back home in front of our crowd,” Kiffin said. “[We need to] work to get a win to get to four and one to go into the bye [week]. Last time they came in here, they won so I’m sure they will be confident.”
Kiffin credited the Wildcats for playing a difficult schedule despite coming into the Coliseum with a 1-3 record.
Sophomore cornerback Torin Harris, freshman linebacker Lamar Dawson, junior left tackle Matt Kalil, freshman running back Amir Carlisle and sophomore tight end Christian Thomas did not practice Tuesday. They could be ready as early as Wednesday and all are probable to play Saturday, Kiffin said.