USC’s Lane Kiffin anticipates using two quarterbacks in opener

USC quarterbacks Cody Kessler (6) and Max Wittek (13) are both expected to get playing time against Hawaii on Thursday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

USC Coach Lane Kiffin decided that when it comes to choosing a starting quarterback, the best decision is no decision.

Kiffin said Saturday that “we anticipate” playing both Max Wittek and Cody Kessler in the Trojans’ opener Thursday at Hawaii.

“We look at it as a great thing,” he said. “We’ve got two guys that we feel great about. We don’t feel like we have to limit our offense with either one.”

USC departs for Honolulu after practice Tuesday. Kiffin said he had not determined how much each quarterback might play and that he would decide who will go first sometime after the Trojans arrive in Hawaii.


Kiffin informed Wittek and Kessler of the plan during a short meeting Saturday morning.

“He said, ‘Look, you guys are both great quarterbacks and it’s tough for me to pick a single one, so we’re going to go with both of you,’” Kessler said.

Wittek and Kessler, both third-year sophomores, have been competing for the starting role since last spring.

“If somebody would have outperformed the other one, we wouldn’t be here,” Kiffin said. “But they both did really well.”

Wittek started in place of injured Matt Barkley against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech last season. He said he was not surprised by Kiffin’s plan to play both quarterbacks and did not appear disappointed.

“We’re both just going to go in there and take advantage of the opportunities we get and prepare ourselves and just ultimately help the team win the game,” he said.

Kessler echoed Wittek, though he sounded more measured when speaking about the outcome of a competition that began during spring.

“Each of us wanted to win, but at the end of the day it’s Coach Kiffin’s decision and whatever decision he thinks is best for the team, we’re going to go with that and trust in it.

“I’m just excited to get in the game and get the opportunity and a chance. That’s all I ever wanted.”

USC has not played two quarterbacks by choice since the 1995 season, when Brad Otton and Kyle Wachholtz alternated for a team that won the Pac-10 title.

Kiffin said that “ideally” he would not like to play two quarterbacks the entire season.

“But at the same time,” he said, “it just can’t be because we’ve had a way of doing things before. … We’re not going to be stubborn and just name a starter because we’re supposed to or because that’s what we’ve done for a hundred years or whatever that is.

“We’ve got to do, with all of our decisions, what’s best for our team.”

All-American receiver Marqise Lee had been pining for Kiffin to choose a starter. But he and other players supported a plan to play both quarterbacks.

“Both guys did so great, and are doing the things they’re supposed to, so why not give them a shot in the first game and have them show what they need to show,” Lee said. “I’m all for it.”

Quick hits

USC released a depth chart that had co-starters listed at nine positions, including quarterback, tailback, fullback, tight end, right guard and both cornerback and safety spots. “That depth chart doesn’t mean anything,” Kiffin said…. USC is 8-0 against Hawaii. @latimesklein