USC Fall Camp: Trojans Trying New Offensive Looks


Quirks and gimmicks on offense may have never been a main stake for Lane Kiffin, but things are changing this upcoming season in Southern California. For a program built on winning the Trojan way, embracing the modern faze of college football may only help the cause this season.

Apr 13, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans tailback Tre Madden (23) and quarterback Max Wittek (13) react during the spring game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It all begins with the offense looking to change things up here in the second week of Fall Camp. In a move much aligned with the flux of young quarterbacks rising in the NFL ranks, the Trojans have implemented the read-option, wildcat looks and pistol formations in practice.

The athlete behind the change of pace is Tre Madden, the junior running back who has battled a slew of injuries and bad luck throughout his career in Troy. Now relatively healthy along with having a legitimate position on the depth chart, Madden is willing to change things up to best help the cause.

“I just execute whatever it may be, maybe setting the edge to help roll outs for the quarterback,” said Madden, following his complicated set of duties during practice on Sunday.

What the Trojans looked to implement was a small scheme, one for limited situations specifically to be utilized on third-and-short scenarios. With last season’s well-documented struggles pounding the ball for conversions, bringing in a small change would only help the offense moving forward.

It featured Madden, the scat-back with plenty of burst and awareness in the hole, taking control of the snaps from center Marcus Martin. This facet of the game is nothing new for Madden who played wildcat quarterback at Mission Viejo High School–along with current Trojans John Akiba and Jahleel Pinner–finishing his career 18-33 passing.

Throughout the first week of Fall Camp, the Trojans had experimented with putting Madden in the shotgun pistol with Cody Kessler in order to test out the read option. While Madden sounded excited over the proposition of a pistol set, he chuckled when recollecting his experiences running the show at practice.

“I feel comfortable with it,” Madden said following his three snaps in wildcat on Sunday. He quickly added, “it’d be fun to throw the ball, it was great to get the chance cause we saw it a couple days ago and we’ve been running it.”

The Trojans first whipped out the first major installment of the wildcat during team 11-on-11 drills. Max Wittek moved out to the left on the line of scrimmage, allowing receiver De’Von Flournoy to play off the line as well. On the very first snap, Madden read the keys from the defense handing off the rock to Flournoy, who couldn’t find any holes, resulting in a two-yard loss on the play.

“I’m trying to get good at everything, catching the ball, blocking to protect and running the ball,” the possible dual-position athlete said. Keep in mind, Madden initially played cornerback upon arrival to USC before being switched over last season by head coach Lane Kiffin. “I just execute out there, whatever it may be.”

Last season the Trojans utilized a similar ideology of deception, bringing Robert Woods and Marqise Lee across the field in motion for easy handoffs or slant routes. It was all part of a successful gimmick to get their top weapons the rock for as many touches as possible, something the Trojans are looking to try again this season, though in different ways.

“It was great to be able to throw the ball out of the look,” said Madden following his one pass attempt on Sunday. “My range is about 30 yards, so I would be comfortable with coach Kiffin calling that play.” The first pass attempt did not fare so well, only going about 10 yards and falling just short of the target.

Whether USC implements the Wildcat on game day remains to be seen, but it will bring a new dimension to this program if executed successfully.