LOS ANGELES - Lane Kiffin said retaining play calling duties for his USC Trojans offense in 2013 was “in the best interest of our football.”
“It’s about playing better in the red zone…we’ve gone back to the basics of working on all spring, and that’s what we’ll work on next weekend [at the beginning of training camp,” Kiffin said.
The USC head coach enters his fourth season coming off a historically disappointing season. The 2012 Trojans were the first preseason No. 1 to finish outside of the top 25, stumbling to a 1-5 finish en route to a 7-6 final record.
Kiffin operated as both head coach and offensive play caller, and his double duty generated plenty of criticism. The beginning of the Trojans’ season-ending skid was a loss at Arizona in which USC led by 15 points in the second half. Kiffin pointed to that loss as the turning point of the campaign during an interview with ESPN earlier this week.
Reestablishing the running game is vital to reinvigorate the offense in 2013, Kiffin said. Both Penn State transfer Silas Redd and the previous season’s leading ball carrier, Curtis McNeal, saw declines in production from 2011 to 2012.
A consistent ground attack is also going to be crucial for initiating the new quarterback, as well. USC said goodbye to four-year starter Matt Barkley this off-season. Cody Kessler, Max Wittek and newcomer Max Browne are competing for the job.
Returning wide receiver Marqise Lee said he has no insight into who will take the reins, but he is working with all three to develop chemistry.
“I’m trying to get as many reps with him as I can,” Lee said of the true freshman Browne, a five-star recruit who arrived on USC’s campus in the spring.
Lee is a critical building for the Trojans’ restructured offense. Lee generated considerable Heisman buzz in 2012, and enters the new season as a front runner for the award.
“The Heisman, the Biletnikoff, that’s the furthest thing from my mind. It motivates you…and at the end of the day, it only gets you better,” Lee said.
Opposing defenses will be unable to focus coverage exclusively on Lee with talented sophomore Nelson Agholor taking a more active role in place of departed Robert Woods.
Both Kiffin and Lee touted Agholor as a potential breakout star in 2013.