USC Football: Norv Turner and the Air Coryell Could Work with Trojans


When you have the kind of season that the USC Trojans had, people tend to call for all sorts of changes. One of the more frequent topics of conversation has been the hiring of an offensive coordinator in an effort to reduce the demands on head coach Lane Kiffin.

It’s worth mentioning that no coaching change is guaranteed and it’s unlikely that any changes will be made until the offseason. That said, if that’s the route the Trojans decide to take, finding a suitable fit might be harder than it looks.

CBS Sports pundit Bruce Feldman reported earlier that Kiffin was adamantly not interested in one of the bigger candidates, Jeff Tedford.

Other possibilities have come up, but Tedford was one of the top names out there and he has a relationship with Kiffin from their time at Fresno State. Kiffin’s desire or lack thereof, to work with certain individuals has also been cited as a complicating factor in finding an OC, allowing the whole conversation surrounding the position at USC to become a gigantic mess, if we’re being honest.

After the Tedford report and the media circus surrounding who would or would not be a viable candidate for USC’s OC, it has became nearly impossible to create a list of realistic candidates that hasn’t already been shot down by a major media outlet.

Having said that, assuming Norv Turner is fired by San Diego, ESPN’s Arash Markazi wrote an article about how he might be a decent fit for USC, should he even want the position, as their new offensive coordinator.

After initially scoffing at the idea, but after taking an honest look at the personnel, Turner’s variant of the Air Coryell, and USC’s incoming recruits, this would be a fantastic choice moving forward.

Some might see Turner’s time at San Diego and laugh, but USC would only be hiring Turner for a short period and it would be as an offensive coordinator. His résumé speaks for itself when it comes to his offensive production: Turner’s offensive prowess has led to the development of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Philip Rivers, and more.

If we’re still being honest, it’s unlikely that any successful Trojan offensive coordinator would remain in that position for very long. Offensive and defensive coordinators at major schools often find themselves in head coaching positions after a successful stint.

Not only would Turner be no different in that respect, but his NFL experience alone would see him off before too long. Turner would be there to run the offense, not coach the team to a Super Bowl.

Those familiar with the Air Coryell system might think it to be too complicated for the college game, but Turner’s variant is much different from the one Mike Martz ran in St. Louis and now in Chicago.

Turner designed his variant to run off the already-established-at-USC Pro-Style system. Turner uses a strong running game that can be used east to west or north and south. Additionally, he strongly believes in a versatile fullback that can be used in different situations. While he would be primarily tasked with run blocking, Turner loves to use the fullback as an outlet option. If the run game is established early, the safeties begin to cheat and that’s when play-action helps to exploit the middle of the field. USC is no stranger to the I-formation and using play-action to set up the passing game.

Pass-catching tight ends are also prominently featured in a Norv Turner offense and USC recruits these in spades. The Trojans love to recruit sizeable tight ends with great hands, so not much would change here, either. Slightly leaner, taller, and quicker tight ends might be the only significant change to the current breed of tight end recruited by USC. That said, these tight ends have translated fantastically at the next level and still provide solid protection on the offensive line. Given how frustrated fans have been with the current involvement, or lack thereof, of Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer in the offense, this would likely be a welcome change.

Speedy wide receivers that can get down the field quickly and turn a mid-range completion into a huge gain are essential to Turner’s variant. USC hasn never had any problems finding those types of receivers. Marqise Lee will definitely be back and Robert Woods doesn’t appear to have decided one way or the next. Nelson Agholor has already shown flashes of brilliance and you can expect him to be featured more prominently moving forward, especially if Woods leaves.

With Barkley moving on, the current crop of quarterbacks would actually be perfect for Turner’s offense. The quarterback is required to have a strong arm and be accurate with the deep ball. Max Wittek and Max Browne are absolutely ideal. Both quarterbacks possess a big arm and have no issues pulling the trigger. Their size combined with an ability to scramble out and pick up a first down, if need be, would be considered an Air Coryell archetype.

Since the Turner variant of the offense prefers mid-range passes to the exceptionally thrown deep ball, the offensive line would not be expected to hold up as the deeper routes developed. Additionally, since many of the formations are called from the strong formation, the quarterback would have additional pass protection, which greatly reduces the stresses of the offensive line and allows coaches to work with different situational personnel.

As a whole, the Turner variant of the Air Coryell would allow the current personnel and the incoming recruits to flourish while still giving them time to develop as players. Furthermore, there are a large number of coaches/coordinators who favor the Air Coryell. You’d have to expect that Turner would move on sooner rather than later, but the system isn’t difficult to replace when it comes to a coach, considering that Cam Cameron and Jason Garrett are two believers of the Air Coryell that could be looking for work sooner rather than later.

All in all, it’s worth taking a look at someone like Norv Turner. Not only does he have time spent at USC, but his system looks like a god-send for the talent possessed by the Trojans. As mentioned earlier, the Air Coryell system is favored by a good number of coaches at all different levels. Vanderbilt’s James Franklin uses elements of the AC system to great success at a school that puts academics before football. Hey, you never know, James Franklin will be a hot commodity soon. All USC has to do is give the Air Coryell a look.