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Losing Baxter to USC puts Fresno State in tough situation

Losing veteran special teams coordinator John Baxter to USC in the off-season was rough for Fresno State head coach Pat Hill. 

Baxter had coached the Fresno State special teams since 1997 and is considered one of the best in the business.

His departure helped the nation’s top punter, Matt Darr (a Fresno State signee), make a decision to not follow through with his signed national letter of intent.

Darr, with a full release from Pat Hill, decided during the early part of the summer to sign with Tennessee, where he is immediately eligible.

Hill said of Baxter, "That was tough. More than anything else, he's a close friend. ... Yeah, I miss him.”

Explaining his reason of granted a release for Darr, Hill added, "Unless a kid really wants to play in your program, why try to pound a square peg into a round hole. I wish him the best of luck. I thought he had a lot of talent. I thought he could help us. But life goes on."

Lane Kiffin, who hired Baxter, stated last week, "We hired the best guy in the country by going out to get John Baxter and his resume proves that. I can already tell a difference in the emphasis and in our players and their response. We're going to need to be good on special teams as we look at [the team] in the long run if we're going to be limited scholarship-wise with these penalties. We're going to have to play great special teams because we're not going to be better than everybody else with limited players. Not only are we losing out on 10 [scholarship] players a year that we can get but that's 10 a year that's going to the rest of the conference."

Baxter added, "I'm hired to do this and for the first time in 29 years I can just focus on this and nothing else. Lane really wanted to make sure our guys understood the technique, fundamentals and details of that facet of the game. I didn't watch one second of USC film before I got here because they weren't doing anything structurally that matches what I do."