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USC Football 2016 Offense Preview: Need a QB & Not Much Else

All this offense needs is a quarterback and not much else.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

USC's offense was very good last year and needs to replace a quarterback in 2016. If they find someone good this unit has a ridiculously high ceiling.

Starters Returning: 10/11

Key Losses: QB Cody Kessler, RB Tre Madden, FB Jahleel Pinner, FB Soma Vainuku, TE Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, C Max Tuerk

Key Returnees: RB Justin Davis, RB Ronald Jones, WR Ju Ju Smith-Schuster, WR Darreus Rogers, WR Steven Mitchell, TE Taylor McNamara, TE Tyler Petite, LT Chad Wheeler, LG Damien Mama, C Khaliel Rogers, RG Toa Lobendahn, RG Via Talamaivao, RT Zach Banner

FEI Offense Rank: 14

S&P Offense Rank: 15

S&P Rushing Rank: 34

S&P Passing Rank: 38

PPG: 33.9

Turnovers: 12 (7 INT)


Without Kessler

Cody Kessler's productive yet ultimately forgettable career is over as he moves on to the NFL and has the pleasure of playing for the Cleveland Browns now. Has there ever been a more bad, good quarterback? Or is it good, bad quarterback?

Kessler's stats suggest he was a Heisman finalist: Nearly 67% completions, 29 touchdowns, over 3,500 passing yards, and just 7 interceptions. Of course, USC lost too many games for him to be able to emerge as an elite college quarterback.

Nevertheless, Kessler was really good, and to be fair, most of the Trojan's problems weren't on offense last year. He leaves a big hole that is likely to be filled by former 5-star Max Browne.

It seems like yesterday that Browne first stepped on campus from the Pacific Northwest but he's suddenly a redshirt junior. Lots of time in the system, for sure, but barely any experience with 12 pass attempts last year. That lack of experience could open the door to redshirt freshman Sam Darnold who went neck and neck with Browne during the spring.

Weapons Galore

Browne won't have to be a hero in 2016, that's for sure. The Trojans lose perennially injured Tre Madden at tailback plus a couple of good fullbacks but basically return every other playmaker at the skill positions.

Everyone knows Ju Ju Smith-Schuster who is in the conversation as the top receiver in the country. He's backed up by solid depth as USC returns 6 other receivers who totaled at least 100 yards in 2015. The Trojans also bring in perhaps the best crop of freshmen wideouts from the 2016 class and with the transfer of Florida's Daniel Imatorbhebje should be able to field 3 solid pass catching tight ends.

Running back isn't hurting either where the solid Justin Davis returns for his senior year after posting 902 yards in 2015. Even better, rising sophomore superstar Ronald Jones adds a touch of explosiveness coming off nearly 1,000 yards at 6.45 per carry last fall.

Better at Offensive Line

It seems like we've been saying this for the past several years. On paper, this USC offensive line should be among the best in the country. Opening day starter Max Tuerk is gone but he missed the final 9 games with injury anyway. Everyone else is back.

At some point won't this line live up to its potential? There are 4 and 5-star players everywhere and plenty of options with experience. The line has had its moments but should not be giving up 38 sacks like it did last year.

If they were that poor with a senior quarterback how much better do they have to get with an inexperienced signal caller? USC had a lot of really strong stats (33rd in YPP, 28th in YPA) but their rushing average of 4.47 (t-61st) should be much, much better given the talent everywhere on the roster.


There is a lot to like with USC's offense and they should be very good at minimum. Given their standards what we're talking about here is if they can take the next step into the nation's elite.

I'm not sure their coaching staff engenders much confidence. The Trojans have seemingly been stacked across the board on offense but this stale in-house coaching pipeline hasn't created many fireworks. Add on top of this the difficulty in keeping pace with the wide open Pac-12 and I don't know if USC's offense can carry the team this fall.

I think it should, though. That should be the expectation as far as I'm concerned. It doesn't look like Browne has blown people away inside practices but steady production from the quarterback can easily win USC a lot of games.