Mar 5, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler (6) throws a pass at spring practice at Howard Jones Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pressure Mounting on Lane Kiffin To Make Quarterback Decision

With kickoff to the 2013 season only a week away, Lane Kiffin has yet to name a starting quarterback, much less tip his hand towards a favorite.

When fall camp opened, the word out of Troy was that Max Browne, Cody Kessler, and Max Wittek would all be competing for the starting job.  Roughly a week into camp, the university announced Browne was no longer in contention and it was down to a two-horse race.

According to the final update from the quarterback tracker, provided by, Kessler finished fall camp with a higher completion percentage and quarterback rating than did Wittek.  Despite the fact that Kessler has performed admirably, Kiffin has remained steadfast in refusing to name him the starter or frontrunner.

Some of Kessler’s statistics have come with the shredding of the second string defense, which raises other concerns about that side of the ball, but let’s leave those for another time. Results from a recent Reign of Troy poll reveal 92-percent of Trojan fans believe Kessler should be handed the keys to the offense.  So, what gives?

Kiffin’s reluctance to name Kessler the starter is somewhat unsettling due in large part to what it may lead to. When Matt Barkley missed time due to injury last season, Wittek was thrown into the fire and did a decent job, all things considered.  He struggled at times, but did show flashes of potential.  His results were in-line with what you would expect from an inexperienced backup quarterback, the Sun Bowl not withstanding.

While it would be unfair to place the entire blame of the losses he quarterbacked on Wittek, his play did leave a lot to be desired.  Taking nothing away from Wittek, it appears he’s been outplayed by his counterpart to this point. Most are quick to lament Kiffin and his slowly developing decision, but that shouldn’t be the primary concern.  Other universities such as, Florida State, Oregon State, and Arizona also have yet to name a starting quarterback as of the writing of this post.

Wittek was already picked ahead of Kessler once, essentially making it slightly easier to be chosen again should Kiffin wish to do so.  Kiffin could point to Wittek’s game experience as the deciding factor and determine it is enough to overcome Kessler’s superior statistics.

Well aware of the recognition his lack of decision has received, Kiffin sent out a tweet on Thursday afternoon that read: “Big surprise for some special people today at 4:45p…stay tuned”.

Some may have believed it was in relation to the quarterback competition —  Instead, the news was Kiffin and wide receiver Marqise Lee delivering ice cream to the Trojan Marching Band.  Not quite what fans had hoped for, but a wonderful and well-deserved treat for the band nonetheless.

Regardless of who is ultimately chosen, Trojan fans should be hopeful for a decision in the coming days.  USC is set to begin its preparation for the season opener against Hawaii and the last thing the team needs is this added distraction.

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Tags: Football Lane Kiffin USC USC Trojans

  • Rich Ressel

    I’ve had an epiphany. It’s Kessler team! The team and Kessler both have that blue collar “gonna find a way to win” attitude. Wittek’s OC ‘rich kid with lots of potential’ doesn’t work with this team. Fight On!

    • Rave on!

      I’m from OC and not rich, so maybe lay off the stereotype pipe.

  • Ben Factor

    Take out the first week of practice, count dropped interceptions and fumbles as interceptions, and they look a lot more even. Kessler had SLIGHTLY lower percent of attempts end in interceptions as so defined. Kessler had a VERY SLIGHTLY higher percentage of attempts go for touchdowns. But he also got sacked on a little higher percentage of attempts. Their completion percentages were very close.

    We’ll never really know a lot, like who was more likely to choose the best receiver to throw to among those WRs who ran routes, or who has team confidence.

    Kiffin should poll the players by secret ballot and for their comments, because that’s a meaningful factor.

    If that still doesn’t decide it, why not alternate them by quarter against 4 touchdown underdog Hawaii? So they only win by one touchdown. Big deal. See if one of them looks better in the heat of battle.

    • Michael Castillo

      You make great points there. It’s definitely closer than it appears, and Wittek’s superior talent is something to consider over Kessler, even if he’s feitshized a bit because of his arm.

      As for alternating, that’s a possibility. Kiffin has a very NFL approach, and while he’s adamant that he hates a two QB system, I wouldn’t be surprised if he treated Hawaii like an NFL preseason game and split time, only to name a true starter vs. WSU the following week. Against a team like Hawaii, where the defense alone should win the game easily, that’s very doable and maybe is the most prudent approach.