Q: If you were Lane Kiffin, how would you improve the state of affairs for this program?
Hire an offensive coordinator, and employ a totally new offense centered around your player's best strengths. Implement a hurry-up or spread offense, and even use more Wildcat formations. Find a way to involve Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor more. Get the tight ends involved, too. I don't even think the average fan knows USC has two very good tight ends in Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer because, well, coach Lane Kiffin hasn't used them at all this season. Combine a fast-paced offense with the new-look defense and you get a team that everybody wants to watch on a weekly basis. The Los Angeles fan base wants to be entertained and they want to see an exciting brand of football.
Take chances. Kiffin has a well-known reputation as an offensive guru and masterful playcaller. The playcalling against Washington State was perhaps overly conservative. His reasoning for this was that he did not want to take a chance and turn the ball over, which, considering what happened anyway, was a reasonable concern. But after watching how poor the offense played, I figure, why not take chances? Call some risky plays, extend the vertical passing game, and trust your quarterback. Cody Kessler is not experienced, he's never been put in this situation before, so breaking him in before opening up the playbook is logical.
But he's got to be able to take shots down the field at some point, so after how badly he played in the ultra-conservative WSU game, why not just let him loose? Whatever the worst thing that can happen, it can't be worse than the WSU game. The potential payoff is that the Trojans finally get the most out of all their weapons, be it Lee, Agholor, or the two tight ends, Grimble and Telfer. If USC can do that, than it might develop one of the most potent offenses in the Pac-12. Not only is that great for the team, but it might be the most critical thing for Kiffin's job.
Lane Kiffin needs to do only one thing in order for the his team and the Trojan faithful to regain confidence in him: Improve his play calling. That seemed to be the problem in close games last year and is definitely the main problem through two games this season and needs to be addressed. I feel like his play calling is more conservative than Fox News and a lot of that has to do with his lack of trust in his quarterbacks. Now that he has named Cody Kessler starter, it is imperative that Kiffin starts dialing up some more gutsy plays down the field, rather than just throwing bubble screen passes. USC remains the only team in the BCS without a completed pass of more than 20 yards, (longest is 19 yards).
Against Washington State, they passed for only 54 yards, 2.6 yards per completion. He also needs to bring about some sort of balance and unpredictability between the passing and running game. Kiffin dialed up the run 42 times against the Cougars, while he put the ball in Kessler's or Wittek's hands, only 21 times, half as many times he decided to run the ball. Overall, the state of affairs of the defense under new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is very good, but the state of the offense continues to remain in limbo. If Kiffin doesn't have some sort of enlightenment from last Saturday's game and refuses to improve and mix up his play calling, he needs to be shown the door. Quarterbacks coach Clay Helton is as much a worthy offensive play caller after what he did with Matt Barkley. Maybe it's time for him to get the reigns on offense.
Two words: play action. I'm perfectly fine with an offense based primarily on a running game. There's nothing wrong with consistent rush yardage throughout a drive as long as guys aren't fumbling and the offensive line is creating holes. The rushing attack last Saturday put a confusing amount of weight on Tre Madden's shoulders, and I hope to see Justin Davis and/or a healthy Silas Redd giving Madden some more time to catch his breath, but the bigger problem I had with the rushing attack is that it wasn't followed by enough play action.Running games need to be established, even if it means handing the ball off more often than throwing the ball.
However, the whole point of establishing a running game is to draw the secondary into the box and have safeties biting on play action to leave deep passing lanes wide open. I can only remember Marquise Lee running for a deep bomb once the entire game against Washington State. It was in the waining seconds of the second quarter and I honestly can't remember if it was a play action play. I do remember SC's only touchdown of the game coming on a Kessler PA bootleg and I think more production will come on O the more SC tries to fake out the D.
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