Lane Kiffin has his starting quarterback, but he’s not saying who

USC Coach Lane Kiffin won't say who will start at quarterback against Washington State on Saturday.
(Eugene Tanner / Associated Press)

Lane Kiffin has chosen a starting quarterback for Saturday’s Pac-12 Conference opener against Washington State.

But USC’s coach declined Sunday to say whether it would be Cody Kessler or Max Wittek.

“We do know who our starting quarterback is, so there is no need to ask that every day,” Kiffin said during a teleconference with reporters. “And you guys will see Saturday who he is.”

A person with knowledge of the situation said the quarterbacks were told that the plan would be similar to the one employed for the Trojans’ 30-13 victory at Hawaii: Kessler will start, but Wittek also will play. The person requested anonymity because they were told in confidence.


Kiffin’s decision to remain mum about the starter, of course, will only bring more questions about why he would distract himself, his players and his staff with continuing questions from reporters about the main topic of interest regarding the Trojans.

Asked to explain what went into his decision about the starter, Kiffin said, “I’m not going to get into, ‘This guy that, and that guy this,’” adding that doing so would create an opening “for people outside the building to tear these guys apart.”

Both quarterbacks struggled against Hawaii.

Kessler completed 10 of 19 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown, with one pass intercepted. After taking a sack for a safety, having several passes batted away and another intercepted, he connected with receiver Nelson Agholor for a 19-yard touchdown and directed a last-minute drive that resulted in a field goal to end the first half.

Wittek completed five of 10 passes for 77 yards. He directed fourth-quarter drives for a touchdown and a field goal.

Kessler and Wittek each suffered from dropped passes by Trojans receivers.

“We didn’t feel very well about our passing game,” Kiffin said.

Redd returns?

While USC traveled to Hawaii, tailback Silas Redd instead traveled to Florida to see noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews for what Kiffin described as “a procedure.”

Redd, the Trojans’ leading rusher last season, suffered a torn meniscus during spring practice and had surgery. But his recovery has not gone as anticipated. He was held out of contact drills during training camp and in the week leading up to the opener.

Kiffin said he hoped Redd would be on the field this week.

Ruffin impresses

USC also hopes that linebacker Morgan Breslin will return from a foot injury that kept him sidelined against Hawaii.

But Jabari Ruffin showed he can be a capable replacement.

Ruffin, a redshirt freshman from Downey, started and made three tackles.

“I tried to know what to expect my first college game,” Ruffin said, adding that defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, “got me right in camp. I basically did everything he taught me and played hard.”

Breslin also assisted Ruffin from the sideline.

“He was helping out there every series,” Ruffin said. “He was telling me things I could do better and things I was doing well. It was really good to have a vet like that in my ear.”

Quick hits

Cornerbacks Anthony Brown and Kevon Seymour suffered undisclosed injuries that forced them to leave the game against Hawaii. Kiffin said he hoped both would return this week…. After reviewing the Hawaii game, Kiffin said the running attack was “very good,” the defense “great” and special teams “very good” in the opener. @latimesklein