Chance Nolan gave Oregon State an extra dimension in attacking USC
Sam Darnold isn’t a particularly quick quarterback, but he could run when he absolutely needed to. Darnold had a knack for playing games outside of the pocket. When the parts broke, he could do something with them. He made a few mistakes in those situations, but he made a lot more big plays.
After watching Oregon State’s Chance Nolan run around the USC defense, as Kedon Slovis’s limitations remained painfully apparent, this basic epiphany is impossible to ignore: USC really needs a quarterback. -Double threat back to thrive in the modern era of college football.
Let’s keep something in mind here: Pete Carroll, tall as he is, thrived at a time when the revolution in attacking football had yet to take place.
Remember Nick Saban asking, “Is this what we want football to be?” It was in 2012, when Saban saw the proliferation of non-caucus offenses and run-mode pass options (RPOs) and pass concepts spread across college football. He saw how the sport was changing. He didn’t like it.
However, Saban did not resist the change. He would rather play smashmouth football, but the sport forced him to adapt, and he MADE the adjustments. Last year, Alabama beat Florida 52-46 in the SEC Championship game. If Saban had stuck to a 2012 methodology, Florida might have beaten him with Kyle Pitts catching long touchdown passes left and right. Because Saban realized he had to make his offense the cornerstone of his teams in Alabama, he was set to win. He was able to fend off the challenges of his throne. He’s still the best because he doesn’t care more about aesthetics than winning. He cares about being No. 1.
If adjustments are needed, so be it.
He was not emotionally attached to stylistic concerns. If he had to change his playstyle, that’s what mattered.
College football today is a Star Wars type game (far more than Norm Chow could have imagined when he maximized the USC offense in 2004 under Carroll’s watch). If Pete Carroll coached USC today, in 2021, he would have to make concessions like Saban did in Alabama. Lane Kiffin is now at the forefront of offensive storytelling and game design, having spent years under Saban before gaining significant head coaching experience at Florida Atlantic. If Carroll was coaching USC in 2021, he would need an offensive coordinator with Kiffin’s chops. It’s weird to say, but it’s true, because Kiffin – after being a petulant kid – actually grew up. He IS a different trainer now.
In the new world of college football offensive, weapons need to be optimized.
Oregon State showed it in their 45-point explosion against USC.
Chance Nolan completed 15 of 18 assists against the Trojans. He threw two bad interceptions, but thrived most of the night.
Many of his passes were made to wide-aperture receivers. Why was this the case? The state of Oregon established the race, so the concepts of gaming action and misdirection have maximum effect. What also helped was that Nolan was a devastatingly efficient runner. Whether on goalies (scheduled races) or improvised scrums, Nolan had considerable straight line speed which led to solid gains of 10 to 15 yards. The USC defense did not know when, where, or how to attack an attack in which running play and passing play were credible threats … and in which the quarterback could play with his arms and legs .
Stop and think for a second: If Nolan had Kedon Slovis’ lack of straight-line speed, would Oregon State’s offense be almost as effective as it was? It is doubtful. Nolan and the OSU offense had such a remarkable balance that USC was crippled in defense.
Imagine, then, if USC had a healthy Jaxson Dart.
Before injuring himself (helmet to the knee) against Washington State, Dart was able to scramble. This dispersed the defense of Washington State and made the Cougars more fearful.
Like Sam Darnold, Dart was magical doing improv pieces outside the pocket. He expanded the options for USC. Slovis is a solid pocket passer – neither formidable nor mediocre – but when games break down Slovis doesn’t have the extra dimension to create something from nothing.
When Jaxson Dart is healthy and performs that USC offense in 2022, the Trojans will have the prototype quarterback they need. If Dart gets the right mix of head coach and offensive coordinator – men who know what to do in modern college football and how to attack defenses in the 2020s – USC’s offense could come to life sooner than. we currently think so.