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WeAreSC Mailbag (1-26 edition)

by Garry Paskwietz

In this edition of the mailbag we discuss signing day as a national holiday, progress of the o-line redshirts, replacing Michael Hutchings, the impact of Stevie T, and more:


Should NSD be made into an official holiday? I vote yes

I would certainly be in favor of it. I can’t imagine how many work hours are lost right now.


I read somewhere that USC gives four-year scholarships for football as opposed to the more common 1-year scholarship. Could you explain what this means.

For so long the scholarships offered by schools were renewable one-year scholarships at the discretion of the schools. Not much was made about it because you rarely saw a scholarship that wasn’t renewed (USC basketball in the late 80’s with Lewis, Kimble and Gathers was one notable exception) but in recent years we’ve seen some schools, USC included, who took the step of guaranteeing the full four years. I think it’s an important selling point in USC’s favor during the recruiting process because it shows a commitment to following through on the academic side regardless of what happens on the athletic side.


Can you give a progress report on Frank Martin and some of the other offensive line players that redshirted?

There were only two; Frank Martin and Nathan Smith. Martin has been exclusively at guard and I do think that’s where he ends up, his strength is as a road grader and I’m anxious to see where he’ll be at the end of this off-season (which is traditionally the one where freshmen grow the most). I don’t think he’ll be needed this year but he should be in the middle of the competition to replace Viane Talaimaivao in 2018. It’s a real shame that Smith got hurt during the bowl practices because he was making good progress. Nathan was a little bulked up and he’s another one who would have really benefited with his first full off-season in a college weight program. I think he would have offered a challenge to Chuma Edoga for the right tackle spot, I still think Chuma would have won the job but Nathan was probably going to give him a run for it. He should be back at the end of the 2017 or, more than likely, spring ball 2018.


Hi Garry, What is your take on the offense’s trend with the fullback? I noticed we tried to re-purpose switches like Reuben Peters or maybe Vavae Malepai, but we don’t seem to have a bead on any fullback recruits? Is it just the Helton/Martin offense? Thanks and fight on!

There wasn’t a lot of progress made with the fullback this year, although Helton has said many times that he wants it to be part of the offense moving forward. I thought Peters showed himself to be a serviceable blocker but he was also a converted linebacker in his first year playing fullback and he just didn’t get a lot of use (and to be fair, the offense did just fine with that limited use). It will be interesting to watch if the coaches continue to use Peters in that spot or if they try to make it more of a expanded role by using someone like Malepeai (photo above) who can bring some of the versatile skills that we saw from past fullbacks such as Malaefou McKenzie, Stanley Havili, etc. My guess right now is that Vavae continues to line up as a tailback in spring.

Helen of Troy

Garry…..​Are we going to win on 2/1/17?



Garry, it’s been written that Stevie T. has been a big help and major influence on potential recruits. We all know he’s mature, has been through a lot and had an amazing season, establishing himself as a team leader, on and off the field. Can you please elaborate on what you’ve heard and observed about Stevie during this recruiting process?

Stevie has been active on social media with messages directed to some of the other Polynesian defensive linemen involved in the recruiting process. I can’t imagine a better role model right now for those players than to see what Stevie accomplished this year at USC, and it could end up helping the Trojans land one of the best interior d-line classes in school history. Stevie was also a big mentor this year to Rasheem Green, and that should pay off next year when Green will step into a veteran leadership role for the group.


Can you talk about the development of the Bishop Amat WR’s Vaughns and Sidney. Both redshirts have great hands and speed. Are they ready to contribute?

Yes, I think both are ready to contribute, in fact I think all four of the freshmen receivers who redshirted are ready to go. I would put Vaughns as the more likely of the two to get a lot of reps right away. Tyler is long and lean and he knows how to use his long arms to go get the ball. He continues to remind me of Dwayne Jarrett at times with his frame. Tyler will compete with Josh Imatorbhebhe for an open starting spot on the outside. Trevon has some flash to his game, no doubt about that, with his speed and his ability to make some special one-handed catches. I think the main obstacle to a ton of reps is the depth chart in the slot, with Deontay Burnett established right now and Steven Mitchell scheduled to come back from injury (along with fellow freshman Velus Jones).


With so much talent still available and so few rides left, it blows my mind that we’ve allocated a schollie to a long snapper. Is there nobody on the current roster who can take on that duty? What is the likelihood that we end up pulling that offer and using it for one of the remaining targets that we couldn’t otherwise fit in?

Damon Johnson is enrolled for spring so the likelihood of pulling the offer is none. And personally, I would always plan to have a long snapper on scholarship. It may work out sometimes where a walk-on is able to fill the role but I’m going to be prepared to use a scholarship at any point because that’s just not a position where I want to take a chance on getting caught short.


How much time is spent recruiting out of state players? Is there some rule of thumb?

Pete Carroll used to always say that he would first look to fill his needs in-state, and would go out of state if there was a player who could fill a need that wasn’t being met in-state. I haven’t heard any specific thoughts from Helton on his view but he certainly places a similar effort on out of state efforts (specifically in the southeast). One area that definitely didn’t work out this year was the satellite camps, at least as far as the Trojans were concerned. There were multiple players (James Lynch, C.J. Miller) who earned offers out of the satellite camps but will not be ending up at SC.


Have you ever seen such a large severance of relationships with long-time USC commits as we’ve seen in the past few months? Do you think this could happen again in the future, or do you think the staff will be more conservative in taking commits early in the process?

It’s notable with how many there have been this year and I doubt it’s a trend that Helton wants to see continue.


Now that Coach Helton and staff have a full year under their belt they certainly must be a better place as a unit (especially after persevering thru the early season to end up triumphant and among the elite). Not only that, but they all know what they have on the roster, there aren’t any really big question marks (ie, ilke the QB position or new coaches) and soon will be welcoming their 2nd recruiting class. All in all, a big difference from 12 months ago. So yes, Im leading the witness here, but tell me what you think the impact of all of this is on the team in spring ball and going into next year? How might the coaches take advantage of this?

The biggest thing is that the Trojans will be a very confident football team, with experience in winning. And right now the players are completely bought into the program. For the coaches, you mention the fact that they know the roster better, I think that is huge. Two areas where we really saw improvement once the coaches had a few games to learn their personnel were the offensive line and the overall defense. You can basically apply that to the entire team for next year.


SC seems poised for a very strong finish on NSD, just like last year. After what was perceived as a “slow start” in recruiting by Helton and his staff that seemed to carry on throughout the year until SC really got their feet under them, do you see Helton changing anything when it comes to recruiting next season?

I wouldn’t see a need to change much, not after what we’ve seen during the first two recruiting classes on his watch. I think his staff has shown that they have a proactive handle on managing the fluidity of the recruiting process, even if it may not always be perceived that way by fans.

Touchdown for USC

Would will challenge to claim Michael Hutchings spot at ILB?

I’m going to put Jordan Iosefa as one name to watch, and there are also rumblings that Uchenna Nwosu could get a look at a position switch. I think Nwosu is an interesting idea. John Houston is also in the mix, and Olajuwon Tucker could be as well depending on his academic status.

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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