Given the USC football team’s performance the past few seasons, there are those who would suggest a drastic change to the offensive system.
For a long time now, many have said USC is behind the curve in the Pac-12. USC’s pro-style system does not take advantage of having many athletic receivers split wide or numerous option plays. The biggest gripe: lack of a mobile quarterback.
In recent years, many teams have moved on to using a mobile quarterback and combined it with other philosophies. Just within the Pac-12, Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford, Utah, UCLA, and most notably, Oregon all utilize a mobile quarterback. They add the threat of a quarterback run and even build on it with concepts like the zone-read, hurry up and no huddle. That is the college football trend and it has even spilled into the pro game with teams like the Seahawks, 49ers and now Eagles. As a result, critics assert that USC must play catch up to stay competitive.
There are many things that other teams do in order to get a competitive edge. A popular route tends to be scheduling FCS teams for the out-of-conference slate. Furthermore, almost all of the FBS conferences, with the exception of the Pac-12 and Big 12, play only eight conference games. On top of that, teams like Alabama, Texas A&M, and LSU carry a mere four away games on their 2013 schedule.
USC has not adopted these types of ploys and now is not the time to start. They should do their own thing rather than try to imitate others, especially since it is a school entrenched in such great history and tradition.
While mobile quarterbacks tend to be a rarity at USC, they were not non-existent. As recently as 2011, USC had a mobile quarterback on their roster: No. 15 Jesse Scroggins. He had no chance of starting with Matt Barkley in as quarterback. After a series of unfortunate events, Scroggins ended up transferring and has since found his way to Arizona.
Looking further back, USC had Aaron Corp, coincidentally also No. 15, during the 2007-2009 seasons. In 2008, he was the third-string quarterback behind Mark Sanchez and Mitch Mustain. By the spring of 2009, he had won the starting job, but only narrowly. An injury changed that going into the fall and he was ultimately replaced by Matt Barkley.
Barkley led the Trojans to an exciting, last-minute win against Ohio State, but did not play the following game against Washington because of an injury. That was when Corp stepped in, completing 13 of 22 passes for 110 yards and an interception while rushing for 9 yards. He transferred to the FCS Richmond Spiders shortly after.
By the time he entered the NFL Combine, conditions changed drastically. The Combine report said, “Long marketed as a dual-threat quarterback with speed, Corp overcame a knee injury in his redshirt junior season at Richmond that has changed him into a more stoic pocket passer who has had to rely on his accuracy and judgment” and that, “He is a definite project.”
During the 1985-1988 seasons, Rodney Peete played quarterback for USC. He was described to have a “burst of speed and elusiveness that set him apart from other quarterbacks and added another dimension to USC’s offense.” His career rushing yards totaled to 415 despite sacks reducing that number and had 12 touchdowns on the ground.
As much as that was a factor, Peete made his career by throwing the ball. He had a career 8,225 yards and 54 touchdowns through the air. His completion percentage his senior year was 62.1%. Futhermore, he spent time healing from injury as a result of his running.
Then-USC head coach Ted Tollner had this to say after his injury: “‘That burst of speed is one of his strengths, the ability to run away from problems. But in making that burst, you put a lot of pressure on the Achilles, to push off and explode. He is doing all the right things. But we won’t know until we put him in a situation where he has to make a boom-boom burst.’”
Both these former USC quarterbacks suffered from injuries that impacted their career severely. That is a major issue with mobile quarterbacks. In the NFL, quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III suffer as a mobile quarterback. Steelers’ safety Ryan Clark, had this to say on RGIII: “’When they ran the read-option, he was the guy we were focused on. [We] had James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley on him at every chance and every opportunity that we got, just so he knew every play, he was gonna be hit.’”
All the added hitting ultimately led to his injury against Seattle in the playoffs. It remains to be seen whether he has fully recovered. Former USC linebacker, Clay Matthews, emphasized hitting these mobile quarterbacks as much as legally possible in order to force them into a traditional style of offense. Why expose your quarterback to these types of situations? Are the injuries really worth being a little more dominant for a few seasons at best? Defenses will adjust to stop them eventually.
Time and focus should be spent improving their pocket passing ability. Former quarterback Steve Young said that “‘You want to be known as the guy that can get it done. You want to be the consummate quarterback. And that’s delivering the ball from the pocket.’” As a quarterback at BYU and the NFL, he was extremely mobile, but even he knows that he made his name by his passing ability. Quarterbacks like Aaron Corp did not develop that ability well due to reliance on the run to save him. He is the one playing catch up, now.
An offense should be tailored to the personnel the school has. In recent years, USC always got top rated pocket passer recruits like Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley and Max Browne. In 2008, Corp could not beat out Sanchez, who came out of high school as the number one rated pro-style quarterback in 2005. The same thing happened in 2009 with Corp eventually unable to usurp Barkley, the number one rated pro-style quarterback in 2009. With this kind of talent coming in constantly, USC continued and will continue to tailor their offense to these types of quarterbacks.