FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: USC Struggling Through Quarterback Dilemma
Published: Thursday, September 12, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 12, 2013 00:09
If the Boston College football team truyly wants to test the new defensive scheme that’s energized a 2-0 start, its wish will come true this weekend in Southern California.
Though the 2013 USC Trojans have not performed like the owners of 11 national titles, Eagle head coach Steve Addazio is anticipating for their offensive playmaking personnel to come out in full force on Saturday afternoon.
“What we are doing is going in to play a ticked-off football team who is going to come out swinging,” Addazio said.
Trojan Quarterback Dilemma
Considering the Trojans’ performance over the past two weeks, they’ll be coming out of the Coliseum’s gates with a lot to prove from the line of scrimmage.
Head coach Lane Kiffin’s squad is coming off a disastrous home loss to Washington State in which it only mustered 54 yards from the air and seven points on the scoreboard—losing a top-25 ranking along the way. The root of USC’s alarmingly sluggish start on offense has been a festering quarterback controversy between sophomores Max Wittek and Cody Kessler.
Both signal-callers have seen time on the field during the young season, but neither has managed to secure the starting gig with a complete performance. Considering that the Trojans have yet to complete a passing play of over 20 yards, Kiffin’s experiment with a quarterback-by-committee system has failed.
“We were just totally inept in the passing game,” Kiffin said in his weekly video. “As bad as it can possibly be.”
Yet USC’s embattled head coach added fuel to the fire by naming Kessler the starter for Saturday’s game—without going into details to explain his selection.
“I’m not going to get into, for protection of the guys, this guy did this, this guy didn’t do that,” Kiffin said. “We made a decision to go with Cody and we’re excited about how well he’s going to play Saturday.”
Like his classmate, Kessler has produced an underwhelming stat line during his playing opportunities, notching an anemic 136 yards while throwing two interceptions to just one touchdown. The announcement of Kessler as starter does not eliminate the possibility that Wittek will also see time, depending on the circumstances. Regardless of the quarterback under center for the Trojans this weekend, Addazio respects each player’s potential to emerge as a momentum-shifter.
“Both are talented and capable guys,” Addazio said.
Defending a Heisman Contender
While watching a quarterback carousel can distract a defense, the Eagles cannot afford to lose track of USC receiver Marqise Lee.
Brandishing sole ownership or a share of 22 USC records, the junior has proven himself as one of college football’s most dynamic players. Lee’s 14-touchdown sophomore campaign earned him a unanimous nod as All-American and the Biletnikoff Award, designating him as the nation’s top wide receiver.
Regardless of USC’s uncertainty at quarterback, Addazio believes that Lee—a potential contender for the 2013 Heisman Trophy—will find a way to assert his abilities as a playmaker.
“He’s going to get his hands on the football,” the Eagle head coach said, “and when he does, that’s going to keep you up at night now—because I think he is legit.”
Lee presents BC’s aggressive style with a dangerous challenge. Earlier in the season, Addazio recognized the “good news, bad news” style of risk-taking that BC’s new strategy entails. Although it effectively cuts off short pass attempts and squelches an opposition’s running game, the scheme becomes vulnerable to blown coverage whenever a player with Lee’s speed steps on the field.
“You’ve got your eyes on the right guy there,” Addazio said. “That guy is a next-level player.”
Homecoming for Rettig
Despite all of the attention being paid to USC’s scoring strategy, the Eagles have their own captivating storyline on offense—Chase Rettig’s return to the West Coast.
A native of Sierra Madre, Calif., BC’s starting quarterback played his high school football at San Clemente, not far from the Coliseum’s walls.
Yet beyond a geographical return, Saturday’s game represents a collegiate career come full circle for the senior signal-caller. Rettig not only drew interest from USC before committing to BC, but also passed up an offer to play at Tennessee—under Kiffin.
Looking to lead the Eagles to an upset road victory over his hometown team and a coach that once recruited him, Rettig has every reason to be fired-up for Saturday afternoon.
“I can’t imagine there is a more excited guy getting on that plane tomorrow,” Addazio said. n