Seven years ago, 35-year-old Lane Kiffin was entering his first season as head coach at USC, a premiere program with 11 national championships and five Heisman winners. Now 42, Lane Kiffin is entering his first season as head coach at Florida Atlantic, a program with 76 total victories.
"I definitely have changed," Kiffin said at Conference USA Media Day. "I would be naïve not to (after) spending three years with one of the best coaches in the history of college football. To learn from (Saban), and to take different things from him and add to what you had before from Pete Carroll. And to add to also in between that, the mistakes that you made and the things that you did, and to learn from those."
Kiffin is now 2,700 miles away from the bright lights of Los Angeles and sky-high expectations. He's still in the national spotlight — though for much different reasons — and while his Rolodex and résumé is lined with Hall of Famers, big-time programs and well-known high school programs, Kiffin is entering unchartered waters with a low-level program who in no way compares to USC.
It's been a long, bizarre road for Kiffin but he says he's learned a ton from his days with the Trojans — and other jobs — and even sees similarities in Boca Raton.
"It’s a mini-USC,” Kiffin said of recruiting. "Boca is like Hollywood. And we’ve got a beach, too."
He's right; Florida Atlantic is less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean, where his staff can wow recruits with pristine beaches. And who knows, maybe they'll be able to use the "mini-USC" pitch to build up an Owls' program that is far from the national radar.