USC head coach Lane Kiffin did little to assuage his critics when he said earlier this week that both Cody Kessler and Max Wittek will see meaningful reps at quarterback Thursday against Hawaii.
The ongoing quarterback competition is Kiffin's first in four seasons at USC. He inherited Matt Barkley from Pete Carroll and Barkley captained the Trojans to a 25-11 record before a shoulder injury ended his collegiate career early.
Barkley's senior season was meant to be magical, but the historic collapse from preseason No. 1 to unranked has Kiffin under a microscope—so much so, athletic director Pat Haden addressed rumors that Kiffin entered 2013 on a "hot seat" in his July address.
Vote of confidence or no, Kiffin's quarterback choice must be a hit. Tabbing one as starter only for him to struggle is sure to fuel the boisterous naysayers, regardless if the choice is Wittek or Kessler.
There is sound logic in playing both Wittek and Kessler against a lowly Hawaii team. The Warriors pose little threat to the Trojans, evident in last year's season-opening, more-lopsided-than-the-score, 49-10 rout. UH had the nation's No. 104 ranked scoring defense in 2012, surrendering a whopping 35.7 points per game.
Both quarterbacks will have an opportunity to truly captain the offense without simply running hand-off drills. Running back Silas Redd is staying on the mainland, which leaves the Trojans with an inexperienced backfield but plenty of weapons in the passing game. The combination should result in plenty of pass attempts for both quarterbacks.
Perhaps not everyone sees the logic—including those in cardinal-and-gold. Star wide receiver and Heisman Trophy contender Marqise Lee, perhaps unwittingly, fanned the flames when he said there being no clear starter yet was "crazy," prompting a response from Kiffin.
Kiffin tells @dpshow he doesn't care what Marqise Lee's opinion is on who should be the starting quarterback.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) August 22, 2013
On the contrary, Kiffin said during his teleconference on Tuesday that neither candidate clearly separating from the other was in fact a good thing.
He does have some precedent on his side. The Los Angeles Times compared this season's situation to USC's 1995 Rose Bowl campaign, in which legendary coach John Robinson played both Brad Otton and Kyle Wachholtz.
A repeat is unlikely. However, giving both equal opportunity at the job initially is less indicative of indecisiveness, and more so of diligence.
Still, the sooner Kiffin makes a decision, the better. The Trojans open Pac-12 Conference play in Week 2 against Washington State.