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WeAreSC Mailbag (10-5)


Regarding our injuries’ update: Back in May 2017 there was strong NCAA Coaches’ support to change the redshirt rule; simplify the whole process by allowing a redshirt to play in four games at anytime during the season including bowl games. Some coaches even proposed a 5 year eligibility standard. Any fruition here Garry?

There hasn’t been anything approved yet. I liked the concept of letting all redshirts play in the final four games including the bowl. That allows the freshmen to make the transition in the early part of the season and then get some action late in the year. Plus it would be an obvious benefit to the team by having those extra bodies available for the stretch run, kind of like a baseball team expanding the roster in time for the post-season.

Juan Machuca

Will Levi Jones see playing time?

I think he will. As of yesterday Jordan Iosefa was still in concussion protocol so Levi (photo above) would be the next option at WLB behind John Houston, and I can see this as a game where the coaches look to get him some extended action. I’ll say this, there are times when Levi makes a impact on the practice field (yesterday he came in quickly to pressure Jack Sears) and I think it’s only a matter of time before his role really grows.


Who’s on the DL for the game, and do we cover the 32 points?!!

I don’t think we know for sure on the d-line because of the limited status this week for Rasheem Green and Josh Fatu. We know Uchenna Nwosu and Christian Rector are available at the two outside spots, and ideally it would be Green and Fatu in the middle. But if they can’t go or are limited, the next men up would normally be Marlon Tuipulotu and Malik Dorton, but Marlon is unavailable with his bad back and Dorton missed practice time this week as well. Brandon Pili got a lot of reps with the first team this week, and Kenny Bigelow and Liam Jimmons got playing time last week in the game. As for the spread, I can see the Trojans covering even with that big number. Oregon State is really struggling and they have some injury issues of their own (QB and MLB out, RB doubtful), and I also think the USC players and coaches really want to see the offense get back on track with putting up some numbers this week.


Do you ever remember seeing this many injuries this early in a season?

No, I can’t remember a year where it has been like this with so many different injuries. I remember some years where there would be a run of high ankle sprains, or hamstrings, but this year it has just been across the board. Very frustrating.


What factors do you believe have contributed most to the regression of the offense since the Stanford game? What would you do to reverse this trend of declining production by the offense?

The rhythm of the run game in the offense was so good against Stanford and I don’t know that we’ve really found that since. And with the run game not in that flow, teams are loading the box and coming after Sam, and so far there hasn’t been a ton of success getting the ball downfield in the passing game. Obviously the offensive line is critical for both of those elements, creating opportunities for the backs and giving Sam the time to get the ball to his receivers. Those would be at the top of my wish list for the offense this week.


With all the injuries what injury do you consider the most critical injury?
And how can Coach Helton keep things together until the injuries are healed?

I still think Daniel Imatorbhebhe is the most critical because it takes away a tight end that had tremendous chemistry with Sam last year. Coming into the season it was thought that Daniel could end up being the #2 pass catcher on the team behind Deontay, that’s how much production was projected from him, and so many of his catches came in the middle of the field as a safety option for Sam. You can tell that his absence has really impacted the offense and would love to see him get back soon. As for Helton keeping things together, the cliché of “next man up” is a cliché for a reason, you really don’t have any choice. The offensive line is the biggest worry for me as a unit, and we saw last week how much the offense struggled with 3 starters out of the line-up and they were replaced with a pair of true freshmen and a redshirt soph, none of whom had really played extensive minutes. Hopefully when someone goes down you have a guy like Christian Rector, who has filled in admirably for Porter Gustin.


Watching defenses key in on the running backs, and Darnold’s success at getting into the end zone made me wonder about wild cat formations. Any chance there is a wild cat formation in the Helton playbook?

Yes. There is definitely a good option on the roster in Jalen Greene, although right now Jalen is in concussion protocol after his pre-game collision with Jordan Iosefa last week. Jalen is a more than adequate runner and passer, and I think he’s one of those guys who is a natural, you wouldn’t need to practice it a lot for him to go out there and execute.


Can you give us a full injury report on players who could play, especially oline guys. Thank you.

Toa Lobendahn (back at practice all week, will play). Viane (out for the year). Chuma (ankle, won’t play). Daniel Imatorbhebhe (still out, won’t play). Steven Mitchell (practiced this week, expected to play). Jalen Greene (still in concussion protocol). Steven Carr (won’t play). Rasheem Green (ankle & shoulder, unclear if he will play). Josh Fatu and Malik Dorton (both got limited work, hopeful to play). Porter Gustin (won’t play). Jordan Iosefa (still in concussion protocol). Jamel Cook (didn’t practice this week, reported as bronchitis, status for game unclear). Greg Johnson (out for the year).


If by some chance we do go up big on Saturday, how big would we need to be up in order to see Matt Fink on the field?

Hard to answer that question since we’ve yet to see Helton in a position as head coach to get his young back-up QB some time with a big lead, but I would be surprised if we don’t see Matt at some point in the second half.


I believe most recruits are smart enough to see what’s going on with any given program. Most, if not all recruits look for early playing time. This coaching staff has been extremely stubborn with regards to playing actual freshman or RS freshman, and substitutions as a whole. Do you think this will have a negative effect on recruiting? Example Jamel Cook – James Cook. I believe it will impact SC’S recruiting.

I understand the point you make about substitutions as a whole (and Jamel Cook in particular) but this year we’ve seen Stephen Carr play a pretty big role, and others such as Marlon Tuipulotu, Andrew Vorhees, Austin Jackson, Bubba Bolden, Joseph Lewis, Josh Falo and Levi Jones have seen varying degrees of action. Erik Kroomenhoek even had a catch in his hometown in the 4th game of his college career. I don’t see that participation list as a negative in recruiting.


I have noticed that Cole Smith 66 has set of head phones on during the games. Do you know what he is doing with the head set? Is he talking to coaches upstairs and is he relaying information to the o line? Or is their another purpose for him being on the head sets?

It certainly looks like he is involved with sending in signals, and the headset would be connected with the coaches upstairs. It makes sense for Cole, his father was a coach of the OL at USC after his playing career was done and this would be great training if Cole is looking to get into the coaching business. I’ll try to grab him next Tuesday when the offense players are available to media to get more details.

Garry Paskwietz

A 1988 graduate of USC with a degree in Sports Information. Worked in sports marketing for LA Lakers and Miller Brewing Company. Began covering the Trojans in 1996 with the Trojan Football Fax. Founded WeAreSC in November 1998 with stints at Scout and ESPN. Emmy-winner while covering high school football at Fox Sports West.

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