As defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Monte Kiffin prepared for the 1999 NFC championship game and a St. Louis Rams offense that would come to be known as the “Greatest Show on Turf.”
Quarterback Kurt Warner was the triggerman for a high-scoring unit that featured multidimensional running back Marshall Faulk and receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. The Rams beat the Buccaneers, 11-6, en route to the Super Bowl, and Kiffin has never forgotten the speed he schemed to neutralize.
On Wednesday, USC’s assistant head coach for defense referred to the 1999 Rams when asked about second-ranked Oregon.
“I’m not sure they’re not faster,” Kiffin said. “They keep getting faster every year.”
Running back LaMichael James and quarterback Darron Thomas, stars of Oregon teams that played for the Bowl Championship Series title in the 2010 season and won the Rose Bowl last January, have moved on.
But the Ducks have not lost a step.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota is a breakout star and sophomore De’Anthony Thomas is a weekly YouTube multiple-purpose highlight sensation.
And Oregon is once again getting outstanding production from running back Kenjon Barner, a senior from Riverside who has rushed for 974 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“If you go back to our game last year, Kenjon hurt us more than LaMichael did,” USC Coach Lane Kiffin said. Barner rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns in USC’s 38-35 victory over the Ducks at Eugene, Ore.
Monte Kiffin said he expects Oregon Coach Chip Kelly to have a few surprises for the Trojans.
“He comes up with some new wrinkles every year,” Monte Kiffin said. “You can have a lot of speed and not know what you’re doing. They know how to get the ball to their speed.”
Lane Kiffin said he has not determined whether freshman Max Tuerk or sophomore Aundrey Walker will start at left tackle against Oregon, though Walker practiced Tuesday in a no-contact yellow jersey.
Oregon features defensive ends Taylor Hart and Dion Jordan. Each has five sacks.
Tuerk started last week at Arizona.
“Max played really well,” Kiffin said. “This would be much more of a test … with their ability to rush with their two ends, especially with Jordan on third down.
“Whoever’s out there is going to be tested a lot more than they have in the last two weeks.”
Arik Armstead is a 6-foot-8, 280-pound freshman defensive end who has 19 tackles for Oregon.
He also is the brother of former USC defensive lineman Armond Armstead, who in August filed a lawsuit against USC and other defendants, claiming he received improperly administered painkilling injections that caused him to suffer a heart attack and hurt his chances for an NFL career.
In 2010, Arik Armstead committed to play football and basketball at USC.
Armond Armstead, a starter in 2010, was briefly hospitalized in the spring of 2011 for an undisclosed condition. USC did not clear him to play last fall.
Arik decommitted from USC in October 2011, saying USC’s handling of his brother’s situation contributed to his decision.
Armond was not selected in the NFL draft and is playing for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.
Lane Kiffin on the Trojans’ penalty problems and players retaliating for something that happens to a teammate: “It’s not a street fight. It’s a game and there’s rules within it.” ... Running back D.J. Morgan left practice after about 30 minutes but returned for the end of drills. Cornerback Torin Harris also left practice early for the second consecutive day.