September 7, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin watches game action against the Washington State Cougars during the second half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

USC Football: An Offensive Performance By Lane Kiffin’s Offense


There has been talk on Twitter and on the interwebs of the Trojans’ offense resembling those in the SEC.  Only that is an insult to offenses in the SEC.  The misconception is that they don’t play offense in the SEC, but this isn’t true.  They just don’t run the four and five wide receiver passing attacks that fans of west coast college football are used to seeing.

In fact, in 2012 there were five teams from the SEC that ranked in the top 50 nationally for total offense.  Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama all put up better numbers than the Trojans did last season.  Coincidentally, the Pac-12 had a total of six teams that ranked in the top 50.

Alabama is celebrated for their outstanding defense so their offense often gets overlooked, that and there isn’t really a lot of flash to what they do.  They quietly had a QB that finished 67 yards short of 3,000 yards, they had two 1,000 yard rushers, and a 1,000 receiver.

So don’t insult SEC offenses by comparing what the Trojans did on Saturday night against the Washington State Cougars to them.  This is not that.

The Trojans had 193 yards of total offense.  Yes you read that right, total offense.  Only 54 yards of that came through the air.  To take that a step further, one player accounted for nearly 85 percent of the 193 yards of total offense.  Yes, Tre Madden supplied 163 of 193 yards!  That means everyone else put up 30 yards between them!  So again, don’t insult SEC offenses.

Lane Kiffin has two 4-star quarterbacks, players that he recruited, and they could only muster 54 yards passing between them.  Keep in mind that both Max Wittek and Cody Kessler have been in this offense for three years.  This tells me that Kiffin either doesn’t know how to develop talent, doesn’t know how to game plan, or both.  From what I can see, it is the latter.

Kiffin stated that the offensive plan was, “…if we were able to hold up on defense to make sure we didn’t screw up on offense.”

What kind of plan is that to have when you have two 4-star quarterbacks that have been in your system for 3 years, a returning Biletnikoff Award winner in Marqise Lee, a 5-star receiver in Nelson Agholor, two 4-star tight ends, and an offensive line loaded with 4 and 5-star recruits?

The truth is, Kiffin as an offensive coordinator has very little imagination.

The play calling we saw on Saturday was very similar to what we saw last year, with Matt Barkley.  His play calling is very predictable and very easy for defenses to diagnose based on formation alone.

For example, if the formation is tight doubles to the field with Lee as the inside receiver, the ball is going to Lee in a bubble screen.  If Lee lines up in the backfield and motions out, the ball is going to Lee in a sweep pass.

There is no attempt to involve two very talented tight ends in Randall Telfer and Xavier Grimble.  There is very little urgency in getting the ball to Agholor.  When facing the Trojans, you only have to worry about stopping the run and rolling your coverage to Lee.

An offensive coordinator worth his salt will be able to call the same play out of multiple formations and call multiple plays out of a single formation.  There will also be a concerted effort to threaten all parts of the field and every part of the defense, with various players.  All of this works to keep the defense off balance and guessing.

If a defense knows what an offense is running without even being in the offensive huddle, the offense is in for a long day.  The Cougars’ Damonte Horton stated he was able to jump the routes for his two interceptions because he knew what was coming.

If the problems that have been festering with the Trojans’ offense for the last season plus haven’t been fixed by now, there is little hope that they will ever be fixed with Kiffin at the helm.

Tags: Football Lane Kiffin USC Trojans

  • Peter Choi

    This is what I’ve been saying: Kiffin is an over glorified recruiter at best. He took over Norm Chow’s play book and rode his coat tails after Chow left. Those 2 QBs are playing like they’re true freshmen who didn’t matriculate early. The OL is pathetic. Get rid of the entire staff, save Ed O.

    • Matthew Moreno

      Peter, getting rid of most of the staff would be a knee jerk reaction. Tee Martin has been an invaluable recruiter and he’s well liked and respected by the players.

      Given how the defense has performed, I think getting rid of any defensive coaches would be detrimental.

      The inconsistent play from the offensive line is frustrating, especially when considering they have the benefit of two coaches.

      James Cregg’s offensive lines have been up and down during his tenure with USC, and Mike Summers does have a successful track record so the fact that his addition isn’t translating to better play is cause for concern.

    • Charles G.

      I wouldn’t advocate releasing the entire staff, but if Kiffin goes, the entirety of the staff may follow. This is typically the case when the head coach is relieved of his duties.

      If it happens during the year, someone from the staff might be elevated to acting head coach which will keep the staff together until the end of the year.

      Once a hire is done to fill Kiffin’s position on a more permanent basis that new coach will probably clean house with the exception of one or two holdovers. That is assuming that the hire is made from outside of the current coaching staff.

      Of the current staff I believe that Coach O and Pendergast will likely be top candidates for the interim and permanent positions.

      • Peter Choi

        Thx Matt but Charles said exactly what I meant. A new coach would clear house but may keep a holdover or two. Regardless, Kiffin has to go. I feel so bad for these kids.

  • Ben Factor

    No self-scouting, no unpredictability, no misdirection, no series running package, no advance contingency planning. No adaptability/adjustment to the unexpected during a game, no ability to inspire his players and make them believe, or to connect well with the press. Failure to use all available talented personnel, unwillingness to genuinely collaborate with his staff.

    And with all that, no humility.

    Hard to believe, isn’t it?

    • http://fansided.com/ Michael Castillo

      It’s hard to believe, but at the same time, we’ve seen for a while now that Kiffin’s never really been able to make in-game adjustments. It was the open admittance of the lack of an offensive gameplan that was the most shocking, though.