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IMHO Sunday: Was the UCLA win enough to save Gentleman Clay?

In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Los Angeles.

IMHO: Could he be coming back? Should he be coming back? Has Clay Helton strongly impressed USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn and President Dr. Carol Folt enough to increase his chances of being the USC head football coach in 2020 with a score-a-thon crosstown rivalry win over UCLA? I wouldn’t count it out of the question after the USC Trojans (8-4, 7-2 Pac-12 South) outpointed the UCLA Bruins, 52-35, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon on United Airlines Field in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Of course, it didn’t hurt Helton’s chances of returning next season when his true freshman quarterback Kenon Slovis (cover photo above) threw for a USC single game passing record of 515 yards passing, which also included four touchdowns. And for good measure, the Trojans delightfully eliminated the Bruins from any bowl game contention (4-7, 4-4 Pac-12 South).

IMHO – Part 2: However, the biggest question still remains: Is Clay Helton the right coach to lead the Trojans to a future national championship and the future recruiting season successes needed to make that elite step? Despite the euphoria of the huge win over the Bruins and the Slovis accomplishments, the answer here – at least after 12 regular season games – remains…No. Yes, the Trojans have won their last five out of six games, but those wins – outside of a 56-24 crushing loss to No. 6 Oregon in the Coliseum, no less – have come against inferior Pac-12 South opponents. Helton’s overall body of work in four seasons does not indicate – if your goals are national championships – he is the answer.     

IMHO – Part 3: However, let’s face it, the real game now begins for AD Bohn and President Folk. Is Clay Helton the future of a national championship run as the Trojans’ head football coach? While the Men of Troy still remain a game back of Utah in the Pac-12 South Division with one more weekend of conference play to go (the Trojans have an official conference bye next weekend), AD Bohn has already been quoted in the LA Times that he will take his time on the Clay Helton employment clock until the South divisional race is officially, which could be next Saturday. I agree with the new Trojans AD. This thing has to play itself out, and it will in time. But how about the report by the Athletic’s Bruce Feldman late this past week that AD Bohn reportedly “really likes” Gentleman Clay, which could mean the big victory over the Bruins might have increased the coach’s chances of actually returning in 2020, which would send the USC fan base and boosters into a complete meltdown. Let’s just put in this way, the unthinkable is now at least thinkable.  

IMHO – Part 4: Aside from Bruce Feldman’s positive report on USC’s administration’s attitude towards Clay Helton, there were two other “timely” media releases regarding Helton last week. Peter Thamel of Yahoo sports did a complete expose in what it would cost ($20,00,000) to get rid of Helton and his staff while there was also the LA Times story regarding Mike Bohn and his plan to deal with Helton’s situations. It was curious that all three stories hit the same week. Coincidence? Maybe or maybe not. Not to deal in conspiracy stories, but this is strange timing. It would be unfair and ethically wrong to fire Helton early this upcoming week while his team still has a realistic chance to advance to the Pac-12 title game on Friday, Dec.6, in Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium. Although many USC fans have had more than enough of the Clay Helton era, another week of Helton as the Trojans’ head coach isn’t going to dramatically change anything, and if the Trojans do get to the unlikely conference title game, Helton should be the man directing the cardinal and gold. To eliminate Helton before the Pac-12 South race is over would be unfair to the team, Helton himself, and his coaching staff.

IMHO – Part 5: Even if the Trojans were to miraculously get to the Rose Bowl and Clay Helton is somehow retained, does that mean that the recruiting Class of 2020, currently the worst in modern USC history, will make a 180-degree U-turn? If Bohn believes that this small recruiting class can be saved by Helton, he probably has more confidence in his coach than the recruits themselves. Perhaps because of the small numbers available in this recruiting class, maybe Bohn doesn’t feel such a sense of urgency, which seems to go against his original remarks during his introductory press conference when early-on he emphasized the importance of recruiting. Maybe, just maybe, recruiting isn’t as much a factor this recruiting season in retaining Helton as most think. One thing for sure, whoever “leaked” to Bruce Feldman that Bohn “really liked” Helton, you have to believe it might have been done for a purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t care about the leaker or the source. It would be like a raging fire in your backyard and you’re more concerned about the fire as opposed to “who called the fire department?” Perhaps what was “leaked” to Feldman was a trial balloon to see the response of the Trojans’ fan base or maybe the groundwork is being put in place for a possible return of the coach.

IMHO – Part 6: I can tell you the response of the Trojans’ fan base if Helton is retained for 2020. It will be voluminous anger followed by unprecedented apathy for the football program – the likes of which the University has never seen in the modern era. It would also indicate to me that Mike Bohn or Carol Folt don’t really have a handle or understand the incredible miscalculation they would be making by retaining Helton. Both Bohn and Folt have talked repeatedly about “integrity” in USC athletics. Well, their “integrity” will be on the line by which way they decide to go with the Helton situation. If they elect to retain Helton, I can guarantee you that in one failed swoop, Bohn will lose his integrity, credibility, and goodwill, and may never recover from it. As unfortunate as it may be, Folt’s integrity is also on the line, as well. We have all heard about the rumors that Urban Meyer doesn’t fit the integrity envisioned by Folt, which to be fair, she denies categorically. If Folt and Bohn retain Helton, it’s one way of not having to deal with the Meyer factor.     

With the regular season having concluded, you can be sure that USC athletic director Mike Bohn (photo above) will soon talk in earnest with USC President Carol Folt the future of Clay Helton as the Trojan’s head football coach.

IMHO – Part 7: For a majority of USC football fans, the thought of Clay Helton returning as Trojans’ head football coach in 2020 would feel like a chicken bone being stuck in your throat. Based on Feldman’s report and actually others that I have heard, it may not be as farfetched as one can imagine. This much is pretty clear: If Mike Bohn elects to bring back Helton, he saves a hell of lot of buyout money as it pertains Helton and his staff. It’s common knowledge that Bohn’s office has had an avalanche of emails regarding fans displeasure with the current football program; there’s no denying it. So, here’s hoping that both Dr. Folt and Mike Bohn really understand the deep frustration and the intense anger over the current football situation. For the record, let it be known that Clay Helton is a good man. Clay Helton, depending on your viewpoint, is an average or above average head coach dealing with some of the nation’s most elite talent while making a reported $3.5 million a season. You don’t get paid $3.5 million to come in second place in the Pac-12 South Division. With that being said, I don’t believe that Clay Helton is a national championship coach, the type of leader that can take the football program to a national championship level, a level that both Carol Folt and Mike Bohn heavily emphasized in the Folt and Bohn introductory press conference.

Now back to analysis and opinion regarding Saturday’s big crosstown USC victory.      

IMHO offensively: Just ask UCLA what it thinks of the Air Raid offense, especially when the Trojans were 6 of 6 in the red zone. The Trojans used their version of the Air Raid to melt the Bruins for 52 points, and let’s not forget that earlier in the season the Sons of Westwood had Mike Leach’s Air Raid tack on 63 points. That being said, Saturday in the Coli belonged to Trojans’ incomparable freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis (515 yards) who has thrown for 400 yards four of the last five games. Move over Matt Barkley, there is a new Slovis in town. It just seemed like the only way that a Slovis pass against UCLA was incomplete was when it was dropped. Again, Slovis showed elusiveness in the pocket, and didn’t your heart sink momentarily in the second half when he suffered a whiplash while being tackled. It’s safe to say to your friends, Kedon Slovis is the real deal. Granted the UCLA secondary isn’t very good, but the good still has to be on target, and he was sacked three times in the game by an aggressive UCLA secondary. Of course, Slovis has arguably the best receiving unit in the country, as four receivers Michael Pittman (104 yds./ 2 TDs), Drake London (142 yds./ 1 TD), Amon-Ra St. Brown (128 yds.), Tyler Vaughns (106 yds./ 1 TD) hit the century mark in blistering the UCLA secondary.

Trojans wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr (photo above) was one of four USC receivers to have over 100 yards in receptions against UCLA on Saturday afternoon.

In terms of the rushing game, it was certainly a godsend to have both Stephen Carr (90 yds/1 TD) and Vavae Malepeai (60 yds./2 TDs) back to ease carries from true freshman Kenan Christon, who started the game. Both Carr and Malepeai ran with authority and showcased their physicality to the UCLA defenders, especially Malepeai’s 8-yard scoring burst in the third quarter. As far as the offensive line, for the most part they impressed their will against the Bruins’ defensive front. Lead by junior left tackle Austin Jackson – a potential early entry into the 2020 NFL draft, coach Tim Drevno’s O-line did a fine job but the O-line did allow three sacks to tattoo Slovis. Obviously, when you score 52 points, your offense is humming.      

IMHO defensively: Just when you think the defense has done a great job containing UCLA’s standout running back Joshua Kelley (45 net yards and 1 TD), you look up at the end of the game and the Bruins still totaled 35 points. Of course, Clay Helton said the main objective for his defense was to limit the potential big-play damage of Kelly, who last time the two teams met went for a record 247 yards rushing. In fact, Kelley’s longest run on Saturday was “just” 11 yards. According to my calculator, that’s 202 yards less than in 2018. However, UCLA’s illusive dual-threat sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson lived up to his improving reputation by throwing for 367 yards and three touchdowns to go along with 64 yards rushing and one score. Altogether, DTR accounted for 431 yards in total offense, which takes away the gloss of a great Trojans’ defensive performance. The Trojans front did keep the pressure on Robinson, and nobody had a better defensive game on either team than Trojans’ sophomore safety Talanoa Hufanga, who was magnificent with 11 solo tackles, seven assisted tackles, and one sack. FYI, the other USC sacks came from linebacker Kana’i Mauga and true freshman defensive end Drake Jackson, respectively. It would be untrue to say the Trojans’ secondary played a great game, but corner Isaac Taylor-Stuart did have a key interception in the first quarter to thwart a UCLA drive at the time.

The Trojans’ defensive line (photo above) was all smiles after beating UCLA in the Coli on Saturday.

For maligned Trojans’ defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, whose future is a real topic of conversation, it was a another up and down defensive performance. Maybe allowing 35 points isn’t such a bad thing, but the Trojans’ defense has given up 30 or more points in four previous games. What can be said is that the defense played with a lot of enthusiasm and unity, but tackling (yawn) is still a major issue and figures to be in the remaining game(s) of the season. Against a quality opponent in the Alamo or Holiday Bowl, it will come back to bite them.        

IMHO special teams: Man, you have to think after the UCLA game, special teams coach John Baxter is ready to run and hide under a rock. Some of the special teams errors in the first half were of the Pop Warner variety. For example: Running into the punter by Britian Allen, which gave UCLA first down and later their first touchdown. Then there were only ten players on a USC field goal attempt in second quarter. Then Amon-Ra St. Brown fumbles punt in the first quarter at the Trojans’ 33-yard line. Then a penalty in the second quarter on a Trojans’ punt return. You get the point. On the positive, Trojans’ placekicker Chase McGrath converted on a 31-yard field goal, missed on a 45-yard attempt, but was 7 of 7 with his PATs. Punter Ben Griffiths had a 40.7 average while kickoff specialist Alex Stadthaus had nine kickoffs that averaged 48.2 yards with one touchback.

Bottom Line: So, the Trojans finish the regular season at 8-4 overall and 7-2 in the Pac-12 South. Yes, it was a three-game improvement from last season, and, yes, there’s still a possible Pac-12 championship game appearance and definitely a bowl game to be played, probably either the Alamo or Holiday. And, yes, it was a nice ending to the regular season by defeating the Bruins. However, this victory over the Bruins showed what the USC team was capable of doing positively and what they were capable of doing negatively. Against a porous UCLA, the Trojans offense showed little mercy, the defense showed its beauty marks and its pimples, and the special teams showed some continued deficiencies. Let’s remember one extremely important statistic that pretty much sums up the Clay Helton era. In the 2019 season, the Trojans beat every team in the Pac-12 South (5-0) but were unable to win the South Division due to overall losses to Pac-12 North opponents Oregon and Washington. That about sums it all up.  

The Trojans were happy with the return of junior running back Vavae Malepeai (photo above) and Vavae contributed with 60 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Next up: It will take a couple of weeks to find out which bowl game and opponent the Trojans will be playing in, but the consensus at the moment seems to be the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio (Dec. 31/6:30 CT/ESPN) or the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl (Dec. 27/5 p.m. PT/Fox Sports 1).

Could the Alamo Bowl (photo above) in San Antonio, Texas, on New Year’s Eve be in the future for the USC Trojans?

The Trojans/UCLA quotebook

Clay Helton comments: “(We) never quit the fight, we believed in the process. I can’t tell you how proud I am of them for finishing like they have to stay strong and thank them for their trust in us as a coaching staff and what they did today. I couldn’t be happier, it gives us the opportunity to be in Santa Clara, we’re going to be the biggest Wildcat and Buffalo fans over the next two weeks. We’ve put ourselves in a position to have a great December, and we’ll see how it goes. I am so proud of our seniors, and I’d like to thank them, especially our senior captains between Michael Pittman, Christian Rector, John Houston, and Jordan Iosefa. Their leadership is phenomenal, and I’m so glad they go the opportunity to bring the victory bell back home to USC. I’d also like to thank Dr. Bartner, to hug him. He’s the best at what he does. It was emotional to see him to his thing for the last time in the Coliseum. It was a great day to be a Trojan.

Clay Helton (photo above) was understandably pleased with his teams performance against UCLA.

Clay Helton comments – Part 2 on Kedon Slovis: “This is four of five games with 400-plus yards, and I think he’s doing a really nice job finding the one-on-one opportunities and believing in the playmakers. In 25 years, I’ve never had four receivers with over 100 yards. I think that’s the most I think ever for here. I’m proud of what he’s become and I’m proud of how coachable he is and learns from mistakes and gets better each time. He comes in during his first rivalry game and now he’s 1-0.”

Clay Helton comments – Part 3 on slowing down UCLA running back Joshua Kelley: “He’s been doing his thing all year. Coming in, a real goal was to try to slow him down because we saw him last year and how dominant he can get in all games. He’s an NFL running back and 61 yards away from 1000 yards and we held him to 45 (yards). Are there some things we need to clean up as far as the passing game (defensively)? Yes, and we will get to that. We’ve got a lot of respect for him (Kelley), and he battled his butt off today.”

UCLA head coach Chip Kelly comments: “We played against a really good QB today. They have a lot of weapons, and it’s really difficult to defend them. There’s not just one receiver to watch. Give Kedon (Slovis) credit, he did a good job against us. Then a couple of those injuries that occurred at the linebacker spot, where our numbers are really thin, hurt us. We just had to make do with what we had. SC’s a good football team. They’re a good offensive team, and we didn’t have an answer for them today.”

UCLA head coach Chip Kelly comments on the UCLA run game: “We got away from the run game, got away from what we usually do just because we were down mostly. We had to start to open it up and throw the ball a little more. When we did go to Josh, I though he did a good job, but that’s the way to do it if you want to take him away. If that happens, we have to make them pay with the passing game, and I thought Dorian (Thompson-Robinson) did a good job taking what they gave him.”

Even in defeat, UCLA head coach Chip Kelly (photo above) was very complimentary of the Trojans, especially the offense.

USC OC Graham Harrell on the Kedon Slovis: “I’ve said that when he first got here. Offensively, this is what it’s supposed to look like. Obviously, I think that Kedon is a special, special player since I’ve been here since last spring, and that hasn’t changed. He’s really been playing at a high level all year. He’s had a couple of too many turnovers, but other than that he’s been playing at a high level all year. What you have to remember is that he also has great players around him. They did a great job of playing well together. It’s not just one guy.”

USC QB Kedon Slovis on setting records:
“Obviously, it’s an honor to be among that list (of USC great quarterbacks), but I think it just reflects what the receiving core and the players around me. Like Coach has said before, the receivers have over 100 yards, and I don’t think any of those other guys had an opportunity to have their four receivers do that, making it a testament to the players here.”

USC wide receiver Michael Pittman on Kedo Slovis this season: “It’s funny because, no, I didn’t see him becoming the new superstar of college football. I will say that his decision-making has improved and become more efficient. We weren’t making play like this earlier in this year, so that’s probably the biggest difference.”

Not only was Michael Pittman impressed with Kedon Slovis (photo above), but so was the media after the game.

USC defensive end Christian Rector: “We played assignment sound and we just put emphasis on the run game to stop him (Joshua Kelley). We knew what tendencies and personnels they were coming out in, what tight ends were in the game.”  

USC safety Talanoa Hufanga on the defenses ability to contain the UCLA offense:
“Our job was to come in and shut them down. Keep our eyes focused on the back end, and we were able to do that pretty well.”

USC offensive tackle Austin Jackson in beating the Bruins:
“It’s a big win, a big rivalry win. If you’re from LA, you know what a big game this is, so to come out with the ‘W’ is great, especially because the last one (last season against UCLA) hurt.”

The Trojans’ offensive line did a pretty good job on the running game as illustrated by USC running back Stephen Carr (photo above), who ran for a team-high 87 yards and one touchdown.

USC WR receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown: “We came out swinging in the first quarter and made some big big plays. I think we played really good as an offense, a few third down conversions I wish we would have had, but I thought be played pretty good.”

USC linebacker John Houston Jr. on stopping UCLA back Joshua Kelley:
“We just focused on our assignment and on our execution. We tried to get them off (the field) on third down and focus on the game plan. We amped it up this year and focused on the run, so we could get third-and-long and second-and-manageable.

USC running back Vavae Malepeai on the turning point of the game:
“I felt like maybe halftime. We just locked in, and coach said do your job and that it was going to take the whole team, the three facets of the game – not just the offense or defensive or just the defense and special teams. The offense gets into the end zone and the defense is all one. It was a whole team effort and that was how we got the job done.”

UCLA DB Elisha Guidry comments on how tough it is to defend the Trojans’ receivers: “We knew they had a lot of weapons, so we tried to work hard this week on doing the little things in our coverages and just working on our looks and staying on guys. They had a good game, and we need to continue to improve.”

(On if a young QB like Kedon Slovis surprised them) “I feel like age doesn’t matter, if he’s a good player and he’s a good player. He a pretty good quarterback and did all the things right to get the win.”

UCLA WR Kyle Phillips on his offense:
“I was frustrating, but we had a lot of mistakes, as well. We left a lot on the table, so there was plenty we need to clean up on our side of the ball, as well. When you’re going against a good team like that, you can’t leave anything on the table.”

From the press box…

The turnstiles: Attendance was announced as 64,156. Coliseum capacity is listed as 77,500. 

Attendance at the Coliseum (photo above) was not typical of a USC/UCLA game in the Coliseum. The announced count was 64,156, but there sure didn’t seem like there was thqt many.

Temperature: Coliseum kickoff temperature was sunny and 74 degrees.

It’s the shoes: In her spirit of her new employment, USC president Carol Folt was dressed in cardinal and gold attire and even wore cardinal and gold Nike tennis shoes.

HOF: Former Trojans All-America safety Troy Polamalu was honored during for his his election into the College Football Hall of Fame. Troy becomes the 32nd Trojan to enter into the College Football Hall of Fame, which is now located in Atlanta.

The legendary USC safety Troy Polamalu (photo above) was recognized during the USC/UCLA for being elected into the College Football Hall of Fame.

The fundraiser: Former USC All-American and NFL All-Pro safety Ronnie Lott, a member of the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, has given a $250,000 challenge gift to the Trojan Athletic Fund, the general fund supporting USC Athletics’ scholarships, to establish the Eric Scoggins Endowed Scholarship.  During Saturday’s game against UCLA, fans at the Coliseum were urged to donate a gift via text to the Scoggins Endowed Scholarship. Scoggins was a standout defensive teammate of Lott but passed away much too early in life due to ALS. To make a donation online, go to usctrojans.com/ets.

The house: As part of Saturday’s pregame festivities in Exposition Park, Nissan had its touring Heisman House available for fans and featured special guest LenDale White, the former USC running back great. Fans were able to get their picture taken with the real Heisman Trophy.

The banquet:
And for reasons of Trojans football family convenience, the Trojans’ football banquet is being held on Sunday night.

Cover boy: On the cover of Saturday’s game program was senior wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.

NFL draft: NFL scouts in attendance included the Chargers, Raiders, Cowboys, Vikings, and Lions.

Let’s go bowling: The Alamo and Holiday Bowls had reps in the press box.

The menu: The Coliseum press box pregame meal included tacos, meat, beans. tortillas, and chips.

The press box media meal had a Mexican food theme (photo above).

In memory: Just of a note of the recent passing of notable Trojans. All-Pac-8 offensive guard Mike Scarpace, a starter on the famous offense line of the 1967 national champions that blocked for O.J. Simpson, and punter Dave Boulware, who was the punter on the Trojans 1972 national champions, are no longer with us. They will be missed.

The post-game show numbers…     

Tackling the issues: Trojans sophomore safety Talanoa Hufanga led the Trojans with 18 tackles, the most since former College Football Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu in 2001.

Upward trend: Against UCLA, the Trojans scored 52 points. Prior to the game with the Bruins, the Trojans were averaging 31.45 points per game.

Upward trend: Against UCLA, the Trojans allowed 35 points. Prior to the game with the Bruins, Trojans’ defense was allowing 27.09 points per game. 

Upward trend: Against UCLA, the Trojans had 643 yards in total offense. Prior to the game with the Bruins, the Trojans were averaging 445.7 yards in total offense per game.

Upward trend: Against UCLA, the Trojans defense allowed 540 total yards in total offense. Prior to the game with the Bruins, the Trojans defense was allowing 403.8 yards per game in total offense.

Upward trend: Against UCLA, the Trojans had 128 net yards rushing. Prior to the game with the Bruins, the Trojans were averaging 126.1 rushing yards per game. 

Downward trend: Against UCLA, the Trojans allowed 157 net rushing yards. Prior to the game with the Bruins, the Trojans were allowing 167.5 rushing yards per game.  

Upward trend: Against UCLA, the Trojans had 515 yards passing yards. Prior to the game with the Bruins, Trojans were averaging 319.64 passing yards per game.  

True freshman wide receiver Drake London (photo above) was another USC receiver that had 100 yards in receptions from QB Kedon Slovis.

Upward trend: Against UCLA, the Trojans allowed 383 passing yards. Prior to the game with the Bruins, the Trojans’ defense was allowing 236.36 passing yards per game.

Time of possession: The Trojans had the ball 27:58 minutes while UCLA had the ball for 31:24 minutes.  

Downward flag trend: Against UCLA, the Trojans had seven penalties for 57 yards while the Bruins had 10 penalties for 73 yards. Prior to the UCLA game, the Trojans were averaging 72.64 penalty yards per game while the opposition was averaging 68.09 penalty yards per game.

The post-game call-in show:

Caller No. 1: Katz, what’s your gut feeling on where the Trojans will be playing their bowl game? Right now, they have a chance to get to the Rose Bowl, but it’s very slim. It appears that the Trojans best bet will be the San Diego Holiday Bowl, which is a nice one-day outing if you’re a local from SoCal. There is a 50-50 chance the Trojans could wind up in the Alamo Bowl, which has drawn positive reviews by those media members that have covered the Alabama.

With ASU upsetting No. 6 Oregon and No. 7 Utah defeating Arizona, it looks more likely that the Trojans will be making a return visit to San Diego Holiday Bowl (photo above).

Caller No. 2: GK, if Urban Meyer isn’t named as the new head coach, can the recruiting Class of 2020 be salvaged? Well, until a decision is actually made on Clay Helton, it’s safe to say that if Helton returns, recruits likely won’t be lining up at the door of the John McKay Center. However, if Urban Meyer isn’t the next coach and if the Trojans’ sign a coach that has a past proven winning record and program, they may not get the type of class that Meyer could have provided, but they will sign a much better class than what’s currently on the table. If Clay Helton returns, he will have to have the skills of Houdini to upgrade this class significantly.    

Caller No. 3: Hey buddy, have you ever seen the USC football program lower than this one under Clay Helton? If Helton is retained for another season, the answer will be no. The biggest factor if Helton is retained is the loss of hope for the immediate future that USC will be a national power that the fan base expects, demands, and deserves.

Caller No. 4: Are you now a Kedon Slovis disciple? I still think that Jack Sears really got a raw deal, but that being said, I fully support that Kedon Slovis has turned out to be one hell of a player for his age (just ask UCLA), and I suspect the best of Kedon is yet to come. The question becomes how much better will he become in this offense and how would a new coach with a new offense affect him? I think that Slovis has the talent and experience now to be highly successful in any offense.  

Caller No. 5: Grego, if Clay Helton is canned, who will coach the Trojans in their bowl game? That’s a great question. Since it’s only one game, I would think that the Trojans would want to go with a coach with some sort of head coaching experience just to get through the practice routine and game management. So, I would think that current running back coach Mike Jinks would qualify since he is the former head coach at Bowling Green (2016-2018). However, it couldn’t totally shock me if Graham Harrell gets consideration.

Should the Trojans need an interim coach for their bowl game, it figures that running backs coach Mike Jinks (photo above), the former head coach at Bowling Green, would receive some consideration

Caller No. 6: Friend, what was your initial response when you learned The Trojans Song Girls were allowed to return to perform at basketball games? Thumbs up. I will never understand the whole Lynn Swann displeasure with The Song Girls. I am certainly glad for them and the basketball program that they can again be part of the entertainment and spirit at the Galen Center.  

Caller No. 7: G-man, do you think that if the Trojans would have beaten Washington this season, they would be the South Division champions? Well, considering that they beat every team in the South Division after the UCLA win, it’s hard to believe that they don’t advance to the Pac-12 title game, but you still had to beat teams from the North, as well. I do think that in hindsight that the loss at Washington, a game the Trojans really had a shot at, came back to bite the Men of Troy.

Caller No. 8: Do you think that JT Daniels can beat out Kedon Slovis for the starting quarterback position for the 2020 season? If Clay Helton doesn’t return, I doubt they’re running the same Air Raid system with a new coach. Kedon now has the experience and success, which would make it really difficult to put him back on the bench no matter the offense. However, if there is a new coach and a new system, Daniels might have a better shot to unseat Slovis. Bottom line: I don’t see Slovis not being the starter when the Trojans open up next season against Alabama in Texas.

When he is heatlhy, former starting Trojans quarterback JT Daniels (photo above) will give it his best shot to unseat current QB starter Kedon Slovis, who will be difficult to replace after a remarkable freshman season.

Caller No. 9: Everybody talks about a head football coaching change, but what about the effects regarding the retirement of legendary band director Dr. Arthur C. Barter? Dr. Bartner is irreplaceable – period. Not only was he a fantastic director of the band from both a discipline and innovation perspective, but the man could work a room, or have you not been to a USC away game pep rally at Notre Dame or the Bay Area Weekender. He’s one of a kind.  

Caller No. 10: Mr. Katz, you seem to disclose a lot of your personal life in your last question to this segment of your IMHO column, so what is your pet peeve? My pet peeve is people that lie. I have no patience for liars and BS’ers. Now I must admit, I have been around some people that are so good at not telling the truth that if I didn’t know the truth as the truth, I might have believed them – if that makes any sense. I have found in my lifetime that liars can affect your life in ways you could never imagined. Anyway, I came from a different generation and when I was younger, if I lied, my dad would have beaten the UCLA out of me or turned me into a human handball.

The Final Word: Standing outside the Coliseum USC locker room with an array of USC clothing and trinkets, former running back great LenDale White displayed what we all have come to appreciate and respect. For all his characteristics and behavior, at the heart of it is one heckeva loyal USC Trojan supporter. Yes, “Thunder” is bleeds cardinal and gold, and it’s refreshing to see how much playing for USC meant to him. 

When all the blocking and tackling ended, the Trojans had defeated the Bruins and USC player were all hugs and smiles as seen above with WR Michael Pittman (photo above left – No. 6) and WR Drake London (photo above – No. 15).


Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

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