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
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.