Kristen Koblik, a former Stanford water polo player, used athletic metaphors to inspire Breslin in the art history classes she taught. The previously reluctant student soon worked tirelessly to interpret and write about painter Jackson Pollock's "Guardians of the Secret" and other works.
"He's a trier," Koblik says of Breslin. "He doesn't give up."
USC assistant Clay Helton, who was responsible for recruiting in the Northern California region, saw that same trait in Breslin's game tape. He reviewed it with Kiffin, Orgeron and Monte Kiffin, the Trojans' assistant head coach for defense.
Breslin enrolled at USC in January, took part in spring practice and was considered a probable reserve who could compete with others for playing time in a rotation with seniors Wes Horton and Devon Kennard.
But Kennard underwent surgery for a torn pectoral muscle on the eve of training camp and Horton and sophomore J.R. Tavai have been slowed or sidelined because of injuries.
Breslin, 21, has seized the opportunity and flourished. Against Hawaii, he became the first junior college transfer to start for the Trojans on the defensive line since Marcus Bonds started four midseason games in 1994.
He has started every game since, and is not shy about exhibiting his emotions after disrupting an opposing offense.
"When he makes plays he turns into an animal," nose tackle Antwaun Woods says.
Woods, who has a locker next to Breslin's, has a close-up view of his teammate's preparation.
The Trojans' new locker room at the McKay Center features iPads in every dressing stall. Breslin never goes out to practice without first watching a video of former Trojans linebacker Brian Cushing, an intense competitor.
"When he has his pads on, he just pushes play," Woods says of Breslin. "I know he watches it every day because every time we come back, it's at the end of the video and it says, 'Play again.'"
It might be insightful to get Breslin's thoughts on Cushing. But those kinds of revelations are probably not coming anytime soon.
Breslin seems perfectly content to let his play speak for itself.
That point is politely driven home as he finishes his sprint to the Trojans locker room with a reporter in tow.
"I'm not trying to be rude, sir," he says sincerely.