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USC football: Lane Kiffin's only detail is Cody Kessler is starter

The Trojans coach makes the announcement in his weekly video and offers no information about the choice of Kessler over Max Wittek, despite saying he would do so.

September 10, 2013|By Gary Klein

Lane Kiffin's handling of USC's quarterback situation took another somewhat bizarre turn Monday.

Kiffin announced, as expected, that Cody Kessler was the Trojans' starting quarterback going forward.

But Kiffin did so via Twitter and during his weekly, school-produced video and offered no details on why he chose Kessler over fellow third-year sophomore Max Wittek.

"We made a decision to go with Cody and we're excited about how well he's going to play Saturday" against Boston College, Kiffin said.

Neither coaches nor players are made available to the media on Mondays after games.

The video announcement by the beleaguered Kiffin was the latest in a string of odd maneuverings involving the quarterbacks.

After watching Kessler and Wittek compete during spring practice and training camp, Kiffin did not choose a starter. Kessler was informed he would start against Hawaii only two days before the opener. The quarterbacks split time and mostly struggled in the Trojans' 30-13 victory.

Six days before last Saturday's game against Washington State, Kiffin said he had chosen a starter and informed the quarterbacks of the order they would play. He declined to announce it, putting Kessler, Wittek and their teammates in the uncomfortable position of trying to answer questions from reporters without revealing the truth.

Kessler started again, but Wittek played the second half of the Trojans' 10-7 loss at the Coliseum, in which fans booed Kiffin's play-calling and called for his firing.

During a teleconference Sunday night, Kiffin told reporters he would announce the starting quarterback Monday and would provide information about "everything around the decision and about the decision and the reason for the decision, but I'm not going to get into any of that until we meet with our players."

But in his video, Kiffin offered no reasons, falling back once again on "for protection of the guys."

"I'm not going to get into … 'this guy did this, this guy didn't do that,' " he said.

Kessler has completed 18 of 32 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions. He also rushed for a touchdown.

Wittek completed eight of 18 passes for 90 yards, with one interception.

"I spend a lot more time, when these things happen, with the guy that doesn't get it," Kiffin said. "Obviously, one guy's going to be excited, so I spent some time [Sunday] night with Max and making sure that he's ready to go and that he's in a good place.

"We don't expect him to agree with us. He's very competitive, like all the guys we recruit. They all should think that they should be the starter."

Now that Kessler has been officially named the starter, Kiffin hopes it will jump-start a passing game that was "just totally inept" against Washington State.

"It will help us in general, just knowing that it's one [quarterback] right now and that we can game-plan around that," Kiffin said. "Now we can get off the 50-50 reps and get back to the one, to Cody getting the majority of the reps."

After the Washington State defeat, Kessler said there would not be a repeat performance.

"You won't see that side of the Trojans again," he said. "You won't see us playing like that on offense. You won't see that negative energy or anything like that. That's not who we are."

Quick hits

USC is 3-0 against Boston College. The Trojans defeated the Eagles in 1987, 1988 and most recently in the 2009 Emerald Bowl…. Washington State defensive back Damante Horton, who intercepted two passes against USC, was selected as the Pac-12 Conference defensive player of the week.

Twitter: @latimesklein

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