The biggest on-field concern for the Trojans right now is the passing game. What needs to happen for the passing game to get on track vs. Boston College?
From a play-calling standpoint, the offense needs to include elements which play to Cody’s strengths. For the past two games, Lane Kiffin has said the play calling didn’t need to change depending upon which quarterback was in the game. This does not help either player, or the offense. Cody Kessler and Max Wittek are not identical quarterbacks who do everything equally well. Both players have things they do better and now that Kessler has been named the starter, Kiffin would do well to identify those situations which can help him succeed.
At the top of the list would seem to be incorporating more designed rollouts to get Kessler out of the pocket to either throw on the run or tuck the ball and get yardage himself. Cody is a good athlete who has performed well in those areas, witness the four-yard touchdown scramble last week for the only USC score. Kessler has said he already notices a difference in his mindset now that he is not worried about having to win the job, now it would be another step in the right direction to make sure the play calling makes him comfortable as well.
First of all, the Trojans need to be more consistent up front in terms of the offensive line’s pass blocking, which will in turn develop a greater sense of trust from Kessler when he drops back to pass. Both quarterbacks have had a steady pass rush coming at them for much of the early portion of this season -- particularly in the first game -- and even when they haven’t, they’ve appeared jumpy and anything but at ease in the pocket. The line did a better job against Washington State, but they need to continue to make strides this weekend, and it might not be easy -- BC features an attacking 4-3 defense that has already amassed six sacks through the first two weeks of the season.
Secondly, Kessler needs to be allowed to play his game. Pure and simple, he’s a gamer who can make things happen if given the opportunity. If the playbook is opened up, I think that Kessler will take that as a vote of confidence from the coaching staff. The run game will still likely serve as the foundation, but Kessler will have to eventually be entrusted with the freedom to throw the ball downfield every once in awhile to his star wideouts -- as well as to a talented group of tight ends -- for this team to succeed. He needs to start building that chemistry with his receivers starting this week for the passing game to really take off.
It’s actually a pretty easy solution. Pass the ball downfield and cool the bubble screens and be highly selective on the “short” game. At the current pace, the Trojans end up playing defense on themselves.
The Men of Troy need to pass the ball downfield like they do in practice and not “pucker up” in a game. It’s the head coach who calls the plays, and he can’t live in fear that his quarterback is going to do something bad, because the message to his quarterback translates into negative communication. When Cody Kessler threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown last week against Washington State, nobody was surprised. You can’t succeed in the passing game when the passing game is 20 yards horizontally what seems like 90 percent of the time.
If you’re going to let Cody Kessler be the quarterback, then just let him wing it and don’t worry about interceptions and losing. How does Kessler get experience and confidence throwing downfield when he apparently isn’t given plays to do so?