When Lane Kiffin announced Cody Kessler would be named starter over Max Wittek Monday, he not only cleared up a three-year dilemma surrounding the Matt Barkley quarterback replacement, but also opened up a whole can of worms surrounding the future of the much-maligned offense under his tenure as USC head coach.
"We made a decision to go with Cody, and we're excited about how well he's going to play Saturday," Kiffin said about facing Boston College. In a rather expected yet also somewhat surprising move, the decision came on a day when neither coaches nor players are made available to the media after games.
Following a highly rumored and somewhat debated players-only meeting on Sunday, Kiffin put his foot down on his program, finally investing wholeheartedly towards selecting his quarterback.
"I'm not going to make our decisions based off what the articles are going to be the next day or what other people want us to do," Kiffin said during Pac-12 Media Day, way before pressure mounted over the lack of a starting quarterback. "We're going to make the best decision for the USC football players."
Now seeming like a thing of the past, gone are the days the 50-50 play distributions in the hopes of finding the best option for this team. This from a coach who has never afraid to keep folks on their heels, starting by telling Kessler he would start his first-career game for USC against Hawaii only two days before the opener, while also not officially revealing the starter until just hours before the home opener against Washington State.
Lane Kiffin preached the importance of letting a "leader emerge on the football field," while also not rushing into any decision instead favoring what was best for the team. Given the recent circumstances surrounding USC's offense, the head coach would be foolish to avoiding the pressing hole in the Trojans struggling passing game.
So interestingly enough and surely debatable for days to come, the final decision was made after looking at the film, (an assessment from Kiffin that stands as the bane of my existence covering this team throughout the season) before making the news official through a USC Athletics YouTube video of his plans moving forward with Kessler.
When asked about the entire process, Kiffin danced around the key differences in the hopes of protecting his players. "I'm not gonna get into this guy did this, this guy didn't do that," Kiffin said about Kessler and Wittek.
While commendable for staying true to his word throughout the entire QB-process, the end result came to fruition from multiple factors best exhibited on the practice field and in the game where fittingly enough, both players have now each started two games for USC.
"We're looking for the guy who manage the ball really well and put us in position to win," Kiffin says along with the necessity for turnover prevention, accuracy and leadership in the huddle.
Shifting our attention back on X's and O's, the Trojans will need to immediately begin implementing a system that best curtails around Kessler's unique strengths.
"We have moved forward, on to the next game and we have to improve this week in practice," Kiffin said Monday, adding, "We gotta make sure we are doing what we do very well."
What has worked best, you may ask? USC's success will be centered around the continued commitment to the running game (especially on first and second downs) along with mixed-in play-action passing featuring crossers and post routes over the middle, a missing aspect of the offense Lane Kiffin quickly recognized this past weekend.
Interestingly enough, and maybe an area we should definitely keep an eye on during the course of the season, Cody Kessler has vastly excelled over Max Wittek with passes over the middle.
For an offense that was stripped to its core last week, the Trojans sadly needed a fresh breath of "Arrogant Nation" sentiment in the huddle. The pressure now shifts over to the practice field, an area players consider vastly important for detox and recovery, where a real game focusing on Cody Kessler's strengths can truly begin to develop.
In the last two games alone, the back and forth nature of the QB play, over-emphasized bubble passes and inability to move the ball vertically down the field for any success has finally reached its boiling point. While players and coaches should not bow down to "Fire Kiffin antics" as motivation, circling winds of concern continued to mount.
The message has been delivered loud and clear from senior leaders like defensive tackle George Uko, "I didn't come here for this s--t!"(via Greg Doyel CBS Sports), and winning is surely the top priority for these players. So in order to rally his troops for this season, Lane Kiffin made the necessary play of his hands on the state of the quarterback affairs for Troy.
Come hell or high water, the team will be riding the Kessler wave for weeks to come. Success, however, will be a completely different enigma that will solve itself out beginning with Boston College come Saturday afternoon.