Lane Kiffin had an entire offseason to prepare one starting quarterback. Instead, he entered the 2013 college football season with two who didn't show much of anything impressive in USC's season opener against Hawaii.
The Trojans won 30-13, but hardly any thanks can go to the quarterbacks, or the offense as a whole.
Max Wittek emerged from spring camp looking to be the starter this fall. Cody Kessler made things more complicated than that, having a stellar fall and tasking Kiffin with making a definitive decision.
Except, he didn't do that.
USC went into Hawaii without a publicly known starter, and hours before kickoff, Kiffin announced Kessler would get the start. Did he give USC fans the start they wanted? Not even close.
Kessler looked incredibly nervous at the start of the game and did not appear to be in sync with his receivers for the majority of the first quarter. He did hit wide receiver Nelson Agholor in the second quarter for a 19-yard touchdown strike, but that was the high point of his night.
He completed 10 of 19 passes for 95 yards, along with one touchdown and one interception.
When Wittek was given his chance, he got sacked twice and went three-and-out in his first two series under center. After establishing a good rhythm led by the impressive rushing performance of true freshman Justin Davis, Wittek started to air it out a bit. He showed that he can indeed be an accurate passer, though his pocket presence left much to be desired.
As underwhelming as the quarterbacks were themselves—they both played nervously, at times looked as if they didn't understand the playbook and could hardly get past their respective first progressions—Kiffin didn't help by his reliance on conservative play-calling.
Not only that, but the Trojans offensive line did little in terms of giving either guy enough pass protection. Without a solid front line or an open playbook—USC did not attempt a pass over 19 yards until garbage time in the fourth quarter—neither Kessler nor Wittek really had a chance to shine.
So what's the deal?
Kessler and Wittek were both 4-star recruits, according to Scout.com. They both have their respective strengths, but because neither has distanced himself enough from the other, Kiffin's hands remained tied. As a result, the offense remains in flux.
The reality is, Kiffin has to make a choice.
A two-QB system is not a viable option for most programs but especially not for USC, a team that runs a traditional pro-style offense. For the Trojans to rebound this season, a starting quarterback must be announced so that the rest of the offense can get to work meshing with either Kessler or Wittek's style.
If neither can separate himself from the other as USC heads into a tilt with Washington State in Week 2, Kiffin is going to have to be the head coach and go all-in on one.
If he doesn't, the Trojans are looking at a trap: Facing a conference opponent with a weak offensive line and an undecided quarterback could present an early-season loss for the Trojans.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!