Passing (189.8ypg – 102nd in the nation)
In the off season Max Wittek, last year’s starter against Notre Dame, lost the quarterback competition to Cody Kessler, another five-star recruit, but Kessler thus far has failed to meet expectations. Kessler struggles to run USC’s offense and at times he seems disoriented and confused. Kessler has completed 61% of his passes, but this number is inflated by the large volume of screen plays that USC employs to place their athletic running backs and receivers in space.(Kessler averages a low 7 yards per completion). But the blame for USC’s poor passing offense cannot be placed entirely on Kessler’s shoulders.
The offensive line has failed to provide Kessler with a pocket or throwing lane. USC currently ranks 110th in the nation in sacks allowed. Tape of USC’s games show Kessler regularly scrambling from a collapsing pocket and trying to make throws on the run. The constant pressure has also hurt the production of his wide receiver corps because Kessler rarely has time to run through his progressions or take shots downfield.
All American Marquis Lee has collected 30 receptions for 385 yards in five games, but he has eclipsed 100 yards receiving only once against Hawaii. Lee sat out last week’s game against Arizona, but his counterpart Nelson Angholor filled the void with 7 catches for 161 yards and a touchdown. Prior to that performance Angholor had managed only 11 catches for 192 yards. If Lee cannot play against Notre Dame, USC will again need production out of Angholor, Tre Madden and their talented tight end duo of Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer because sanctions have created a shortage of scholarship wide receivers on the roster.