Lane Kiffin went on … and on … and on.
Taking a cue, perhaps, from a seasoned politician, USC's coach stretched his opening statement Tuesday at Pacific 12 Conference media day to nearly nine minutes.
"I've eaten up all the time," Kiffin finally joked, "so there are no hard questions you can ask me right now."
Kiffin and the Trojans will begin finding answers next week when they open training camp in preparation for Kiffin's second season.
USC is coming off an 8-5 record in 2010, its worst season since 2001.
Media members, however, picked the Trojans to win the conference's South Division. (Times writers did not vote, in compliance with Times policy prohibiting voting for awards or in polls.) A division title would qualify USC for the inaugural Pac-12 championship game under normal circumstances, but NCAA sanctions prohibit the Trojans from participating in that game or a bowl game for the second year in a row.
"We're not thinking about the negative aspects of the season," quarterback Matt Barkley said.
Barkley, a junior projected by some as a possible top-five pick in the 2012 NFL draft, is readying for his third season as the Trojans' starter.
He and sophomore receiver Robert Woods are marquee players for an offense that will feature three new starting offensive linemen and will be without suspended senior tailback Marc Tyler for the Sept. 3 opener against Minnesota, and possibly longer.
"It's about him getting right, and so he may never be back," Kiffin said. "We hope that he's back, because that means that he's got everything in order."
Kiffin spoke of the need for Barkley to finish games better and said the same about a defense that was particularly vulnerable last season in the closing minutes.
Haden on Ohio State
USC Athletic Director Pat Haden said he was surprised by reports that Ohio State had been told by the NCAA that investigators had found no evidence that it failed to monitor its football program. Haden cautioned that he did not know all of the details of the NCAA's probe of Ohio State.
"They know a lot more than I do, so it's dangerous for me to say, 'Are you kidding me?' " Haden said, adding that Ohio State will have its hearing in front of the NCAA on Aug. 12. "It will be interesting to see what comes out of that."
Asked if he thought other schools had learned from USC about what not to do when dealing with the NCAA, Haden said, "You can always learn from others — how some schools have done it well and how some schools have not done it well — so I'm sure everybody has looked at the way we handled the situation and made their own determination that they're going to do it similarly or take a different tack."
Kiffin, awaiting possible NCAA sanctions for alleged violations committed during his tenure at Tennessee, said he was "very confident in the process" but could not address specifics because of the pending decision…. The status of defensive lineman Armond Armstead, who was held out of spring workouts after undergoing tests on his chest area, has not been determined, Kiffin said…. Junior running back Curtis McNeal is attending summer-session classes with hopes of becoming eligible in the fall…. Incoming freshman defensive lineman DeVante Wilson will undergo knee surgery and is expected to redshirt. Redshirt freshman cornerback Patrick Hall had knee surgery this summer.... Steve Dillon, a defensive lineman from Palmdale High, was released by USC after informing the school he would not qualify academically, Kiffin said.