Lane Kiffin, Cody Kessler

No clarity yet in USC’s QB situation

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Going into Thursday’s opener against Hawaii, USC head coach Lane Kiffin declined to name a starter between a pair of sophomores, Max Wittek and Cody Kessler (pictured).  Responding in kind, the quarterbacks declined to give Kiffin a reason coming out of it either.

Kessler started what turned out to be a 30-13 win for the No. 24 Trojans in the first game of the post-Matt Barkley era, giving way to Wittek after the first series of the third quarter.  To say there was no separation between the two following a pair of uneven performances would be putting it mildly.

Obviously, it’s a big question,” Kiffin said of the quarterback position. “There was not an obvious No. 1 out there today.”

Kessler completed just 10-of-19 passes for 95 yards, one touchdown and an interception.  Wittek completed half of his 10 passes for 77 yards with neither a touchdown nor an interception on the stat sheet.  All told, USC signal callers combined to throw for a measely 172 yards, or what Barkley had called a good half over the past four years.

The offense managed just two touchdowns — one more than the defense scored — and three field goals against a defense that was ranked 107th in scoring at just under 36 points per game.

Kiffin, though, wasn’t about to throw just his quarterbacks under the offensive bus, laying the blame for the offensive ineptness at the feet of, among others, himself.

“I didn’t think we played real well there,” Kiffin, who is USC’s playcaller, said. “We didn’t do real well around them, including myself.”

As USC heads into the Pac-12 opener against Washington State next Saturday, it appears likely they’ll take the same tack as this past week: play both quarterbacks, and pray that one turns into something more than they were in the opener.

DL Josh Moore tweets decision to transfer from Mizzou

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 05:  Head coach Barry Odom of the Missour Tigers reacts during their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 5, 2016 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Tyler Lecka/Getty Images)
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Missouri’s defensive line grouping will be a little lighter personnel-wise when the Tigers kick spring practice off in a couple of months.

On his personal Twitter account Monday, Josh Moore announced his decision to transfer from Mizzou in order to “follow other opportunities academically and athletically.” No specific reason was given for the lineman’s decision to move on from Columbia and head coach Barry Odom‘s football program.

Moore was a three-star member of Mizzou’s 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 5 player at any position in the state of Kansas. Listed as a tight end coming out of high school, Moore played both end and tackle along the Tigers’ defensive line the past two seasons.

After playing in 11 games as a true freshman, Moore saw his playing time cut in more than half as he took the field for just five games in 2016.

Cal hires Marques Tuiasasopo to coach quarterbacks

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Noah Westerfield #33 of the California Golden Bears runs onto the field prior to the start of an NCAA football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at California Memorial Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Former Washington quarterback great Marques Tuiasasopo is making his rounds through the entire Pac-12.

On Monday, California announced the hiring of the former Husky to coach the Bears’ quarterbacks and serve as the team’s passing game coordinator. Tuiasasopo served in the same capacity for UCLA last season, and previously worked alongside Golden Bears head coach Justin Wilcox at USC and his alma mater.

“It is important that the coaches on our staff have strong connections on the West Coast and Marques certainly has been a fixture in the football world on this side of the country for a long time,” Wilcox said in a statement. “The connections he has made over the years along with his familiarity with the Pac-12 will pay tremendous dividends for us in recruiting. Also, having been a former player he understands the game from the players’ perspective quite well and is enthusiastic on imparting the knowledge he has gained as both a player and young assistant coach to our players.”

Tuisasopo jumped into coaching as a strength and conditioning assistant at Washington in 2009, then moved on-the-field as an intern and later tight ends coach at UCLA.

“I’m really excited to be joining the Cal football family and to be coaching with Justin Wildox again,” Tuiasosopo said. “Justin is a great coach and an even better person. I look forward to working with the new coaching staff that is being put together at Cal and tapping into the program’s rich football history, building off that and bringing championship football back to this great University.”

Tuiasasopo spent four years as a quarterback at Washington, ending his run with an eighth-place finish in the 2000 Heisman Trophy voting, a Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year award and a Rose Bowl MVP trophy, leading the Huskies to the No. 3 final AP ranking, which still stands as the program’s highest year-end ranking since their 1991 national championship. He left school as the Huskies’ all-time leader in total offense and become the first college quarterback ever to throw for 300 yards and rush for 200 in the same game.

 

Cal reportedly hires former Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter to head defense

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 03: Head coach Tim DeRuyter of the Fresno State Bulldogs watches action against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Fresno State 43-10.  (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
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California will hire former Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter to serve as its defensive coordinator, according to multiple reports out Monday.

DeRuyter, of course, was the Bulldogs’ head coach through mid-October, where he was let go after starting with a 1-7 record. Prior to that, he led Fresno State to the 2013 Mountain West championship and shares of the MW West Division crown in 2012 and ’14. (And then Derek Carr graduated.)

A longtime defensive coordinator, DeRuyter previously served in that same post at Ohio, Navy, Nevada, Air Force and Texas A&M.

Gorley writes DeRuyter will be asked to transition the Bears from a 4-3 to a 3-4 alignment, a task he’s successfully completed in the past. He would take over a defense that finished last season ranking 122nd in yards per play allowed and second-to-last in scoring.

 

Michigan football going to Rome this spring

ROME, ITALY - APRIL 06:  A view of the Colosseum and Roman Forum during the Way Of The Cross procession held by Pope Benedict XVI on Good Friday April 6, 2012 in Rome, Italy.  The traditional Catholic procession on Good Friday recalls the crucifixion of Jesus Christ ahead of Sunday's Easter holiday. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
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The NCAA is going to shut down the ability to take a football team off campus during spring break starting in August, so Jim Harbaugh is making sure his program gets one more trip squeezed in. This one is going to require a passport.

This April, Harbaugh is taking the Wolverines to Rome for a “week of education and spring drills.” This is a direct response to criticisms Michigan faced when moving spring football practices to Bradenton, Florida last spring, nestled right in ACC and SEC recruiting grounds. The practices at the home of AS Roma, an Italian soccer club. What’s different about this one is the trip will come at the end of the semester instead of over spring break. Harbaugh just found a loophole.

“We were looking to provide our student-athletes with a great educational, cultural and international football experience,” Harbaugh said in a released statement. “I am excited that our student-athletes will be able to take advantage of this amazing educational opportunity, be exposed to another culture, and be ambassadors for the United States and the University of Michigan during our visit to Rome.”

Last week, the NCAA’s Division 1 Council voted to ban off-campus trips over scheduled off days from the academic calendar. But because this trip is not taking place over a spring break, the trip can, in theory, be used every year.

Just think, if Michigan had just gone to Rome last year instead of Florida, perhaps the feathers from the ACC and SEC would not have been so ruffled.

Harbaugh in Rome. This should be fun to follow.