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WeAreSC mailbag (3-25 edition)

by Garry Paskwietz

Here is this week’s mailbag as the Trojans get ready to wrap up week two of spring ball drills with a scrimmage Saturday in the Coliseum:


  1. Leon McQuay — is what we have seen from him this far just “spring football flashes” or is there any indication he has turned the corner and is responding to the tutelage of CP? Do you envision him as the starter opposite Tell?
  1. Ajene Harris/ Rogers — Rogers seemed to have really Came on at the end of last year and is reported to be looking really solid thus far… But aside from injuries the name I always seem to be hearing making plays is Ajene. What do you make of this competition ?

McQuay looks very good so far this spring and my guess is that the Pendergast factor is big here. Leon just looks more comfortable out there than we saw from him the past two years, granted it is only two weeks of spring but I’m encouraged by what we see so far. I don’t think the starters will be settled until fall because there are some good options when everyone is healthy.

Ajene Harris just continues to impress every time he is healthy and on the field. I don’t think there’s any question he can be in the mix because he makes plays when he is out there. Rogers seems to have made the growth as a senior to the point where he looks like the veteran who will lock down the spot opposite JuJu as a dependable option. I think the receiver spot is the deepest on the team.


To add to Glycerine’s 2nd question (hope you don’t mind – agree on Rogers and Harris), I’m a big Hampton fan and I really hope he gets a lot of playing time this year. Do you see this as a possibility?

The main thing that will determine “a lot” of playing time is the deep rotation mentioned above. De’Quan is having a solid spring and he offers a nice “big” receiving option but the Trojans have a few guys who can do that, the good news is that De’Quan is one of them. 


You mentioned in practice report #4 that Jordan Simmons took the bulk of the reps with the No. 1 offense at right guard and Chris Brown was lining up at left guard. Are the coaches just looking at combinations, pushing Viane and Mama, or do you think there may be more to this.

I think it is a new position coach taking a look at options. With that being said, Jordan has held his own, which is a positive considering his injury history and the fact that he was on defense last year, but I’m not ready to say he is pushing Viane. I also want to see what happens regarding the Bigelow injury and the possibility of moving Simmons back because we have good depth on the o-line, but the interior d-line depth could use help if Kenny is out.


Personal opinion Garry, do you honestly think a tandem of Hutch and Powell could hold their own as ILB’s against the likes of Bama or even Furd? I sometimes get caught up on measurables and there many other facets to the game…but how can a 6’2” ~ 200 lbs player be an ILB?

Sarao was constantly getting ragdolled at 220 lbs+.

As for Hutch, he’s slightly heavier in the ~ 220 lbs range, but he gets lost out there at times. How have they looked?

The size factor is something to consider but right now the reality is that these are the available players. Cam Smith comes back in the fall so obviously that helps but we saw yesterday what can happen when Powell tried to blitz on Damien Mama and went backwards after the contact. I’ll say this, Hutchings and Powell both look a lot more comfortable now, and I’ll credit Clancy for that, but I don’t think anything is set in stone right now in terms of players moving around. For instance, what happens if Masina doesn’t light it up at OLB, do you consider moving him inside? Lots of combinations to look at.


How do the RBs look in pass blocking?

Let’s call it a work in progress. Justin Davis is the veteran and he will stick his nose in there, I like what I see from Aca’Cedric Ware too. Ronald Jones (photo above) probably has the most work to do but you can tell Tommie Robinson is making this a point of emphasis.

The Lizard King

What is your opinion on Kim Helton and Pete Jenkins coming in and consulting Neil Callaway and Kenechi Udeze, respectively, on the offensive and defensive lines?

I like it a lot, an extra pair of veteran coaching eyes to help give advice. It’s about them working with the coaches since they can’t coach up the players but I think that’s just as valuable with someone like Kenechi, especially with BKU’s former coach Ed Orgeron being such a Jenkins guy himself. And, once again, it’s a sign to me of Clay Helton being comfortable enough to bring in guys like that (it helps when one of them is your dad!).


Seeing that Max Browne will graduate and have 2 more seasons of eligibility, is there any danger of him possibly transferring if he isn’t named starting QB this Spring?

Sure there would be, and I wouldn’t blame him if he did transfer in that situation. He’s been as loyal and patient as you could expect him to be but at some point Max needs to play and if it’s not going to happen here, he would have options to do it elsewhere because he took care of business in the classroom. But I don’t see that being the case. Max is clearly the lead guy right now and he looks like a starter through the first two weeks of spring.


How does Max look so far compared to the past when other guys(Kessler, Sanchez, Booty)finally got their chance to start, after waiting for a while?

I think his situation is very similar to Sanchez. Both players waited three years and when Mark got his shot he hit the ground running and had a terrific year, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Max playing at a high level right away just like Mark did.


Does Coach Helton bringing in Pete Jenkins and his father indicate that he does not have full confidence in his line coaches?

Not at all. His dad is a longtime OL coach who had Callaway on his staff at Houston so there is a natural working relationship there, why would you not want to take advantage of that? As for Jenkins, he was the one Orgeron brought in to coach the DL during his interim phase for the Trojans and he’s another sage veteran coach who can help mentor a new coach in Kenechi. But don’t take that to mean a lack of confidence in Kenechi. In fact, I’ve talked to a few old coaches who have watched practices so far and they have been unanimous in their praise of what they see from him working with the players.


Since there seems to be depth on the OL, any talk of moving Viane to NG? I seem to remember during his recruitment talk that he may be a better NG than OL.

I haven’t heard any talk of that. If anything, I would think Simmons might be a candidate before Viane, if for no other reason than his time there last year.


CCH singled out Jacob Daniels as a top D performer for practice#4. Is this a sign of motivation considering Noah Jefferson went down with an apparent injury or really a sign that the NT position has good competition? Who are the other NT options if both are injured. We struggled last year at this position with injuries.

I don’t think there was any agenda to naming Daniel player of the day, he’s a legit option. I would have Noah as my starter right now but Daniel would be 1A on the depth chart and I’ve got no problem if he ends up being a starter. With Jefferson out on Thursday we saw Liam Jimmons as the #2 guy, but you have to imagine Fatu would be there in the fall. And yes, injuries could be a real concern, as we are finding out with the possibility of Bigelow being out.


Do you think, being the athletic marvel that he is, that Betiku has a chance to start from Day 1?

With all due respect to Betiku’s talents, that would surprise me. I think he will be in the rotation (just point him at the QB and go) but I think he’s still a little raw in his overall game to bypass the others on the roster at the position. But in terms of physical potential, he is as good as advertised.


We haven’t heard Chad Wheeler’s name much, and Zach Banner’s been spending a lot of time in his old spot. How’s he looking post incident? How is his extra weight working for him – does he really look like 315lbs and has it been a positive, or a negative?

I think Chad looks fine and when the season starts I think he will be at LT and Zach will be at RT. But the coaches are definitely taking a look at the different options (with Zach at LT and Chuma Edoga at RT) so you don’t want to rule anything out. I actually thought Zach looked better at LT last year than he did at RT.


Bigelow should have had his MRI last night. Is there any word, yet?

Helton said after practice that the MRI would be taken last night but we haven’t heard anything, and we don’t know for certain that it did take place. If we don’t hear anything today, Helton will certainly be asked about it after the scrimmage tomorrow.

Garry Paskwietz
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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