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WeAreSC Mailbag (10-12)


Hi Garry, do you sense a feeling of desperation at this point, to figure out what kind of team this is (can be) as we’re halfway through the season?

This next game will either put us back on track and show issues can be addressed, or expose the fears many have been alluding to…that this team lacks fundamental pieces, in additional to lacking Darnold’s “magic” to mask the glaring issues.

Actually I sensed the opposite at practice this week, it was more a case “here we go, time for the south” and they know what kind of game this is. But you hit the main reality on the head, this game (and next week) will tell so much about where this team is. You will either gain the upper hand for a berth in the Pac-12 title game, or you won’t. You will either beat the Irish in South Bend, or you won’t. Those are two big check marks for this season, and they are right on top of us. Time to find out.


Garry, can you talk about in what situations it makes sense to burn a redshirt and when it doesn’t make sense to do it? For example, Randall Grimes’ redshirt was burned this past weekend as he was inserted into the OSU game, and a number of us are left wondering why. Meanwhile, I’ve expressed the opinion that we should take Dominic Davis off the redshirt list and use him as a punt returner, given the pressing need to gain production in this area. How do you see the issue of burning a redshirt during the course of a season?

My read is that if a player hasn’t played by this point in the season there is a desire to have him redshirt, and you burn the redshirt if there is a position need (I think someone like Pili fills that bill) or if you think he can offer a specific skill that is missing. Last year we saw Oluwole’s redshirt year burned late because the thought was that he could provide some explosive pass rush but that didn’t happen.

With Grimes (photo above), I was pretty surprised to see him in the game last week, and there are a few ways to look at it. I don’t see us being able to find roles yet for guys like Pittman (injury factor), Josh Imatorbhebhe or Joseph Lewis (redshirt year already burned) so where are the catches for Grimes? But you could also look at it as none of those guys have stepped up yet like Vaughns has so why not throw Randal in there to see what he can do. Helton also mentioned the ability to contribute on special teams. I’ll say this, Randal is developing some good size and I like his aggressive nature and red zone potential, so we’ll see how quickly that translates in games. I just thought he was an ideal redshirt and a guy who was going to be ready to go next year (kind of like the progression for Vaughns). We’ll see what happens.

As for Davis, even with his speed we’ve never really seen him make an impact as a return man, even though that would seem a natural role for someone with his speed. One read is that he’s very quick straight ahead but we haven’t seen a lot of moves or elusiveness. He is tough though, and that’s one of the reasons I’m anxious to see how he develops as a corner.


Does Utah have a receiver this year like Tim Patrick or the Texas giant who is simply too big for the SC dbs? Can you tell us a little about the Utah receivers, what SC can do to slow them down, and how you think our DBs will do? Thanks Garry.

I think they do have a “lead” receiver kind of guy in Darren Carrington, the former Oregon Duck who is making a big contribution so far in his first (and only) year at Utah. Carrington (6-3, 205) is leading the conference in receiving yards (584) and yards per game, is 3rd in the conference in catches (37), and already has 3 100-yard games this year. He’s a proven guy in the Pac-12 and it will be a critical match-up for the SC corners to contain him on big plays. If he starts to have a Collin Johnson kind of day (I was really impressed with Johnson) it will be interesting to see if Clancy gives a corner some help with a safety, he did it a little against Johnson but it’s not something he likes to do a lot.


Garry, what’s the deal with burning Randall Grimes redshirt? At the time it happened we all wondered why, and at that time? I’d appreciate your thoughts on the background, timing, and philosophy (as you discern it!) on this move.

See earlier response to SC93er. I think the move will be judged on how Randal does the rest of the year in relation to someone like Pittman. Helton said in his Sunday night media call that he thinks Pittman is the next guy to “emerge” in a way that Rector and Vaughns have. If that’s the case, a lead receiver group of Burnett, Mitchell, Vaughns and Pittman would seem to be enough, but if the reasoning is that Grimes can legitimately help in the run for a Pac-12 title I’m all for it.

Here was Helton’s quote on Grimes after practice on Wednesday: “We felt like he could help us on special teams and we saw that light come on for him also. Sometimes it takes 5-6 games for a freshman but he’s in that position now, he looks comfortable, he looks confident, and with some of those bodies going down we felt he could help us on special teams. You see some of those true freshmen like Bubba Bolden, Levi Jones and Josh Falo, those guys are really helping us on special teams right now and we feel like Randal can do that also, as well as develop as a tremendous receiver for the future.”



The offense had success with the TE’s at times do they go back to that?

I definitely think that will be the case when Daniel Imatorbhebhe returns. Of all the issues on offense surrounding Sam I think the absence of Daniel has been the most critical. And I’m extremely content with what Tyler Petite has given us with 14 catches so far but I don’t think it would have surprised anybody if Daniel was double that by now if he was active. He just had such a chemistry with Sam and I can’t wait to see him back in action. And watch out as Josh Falo continues to develop.


Hey Garry,
With a kid like Josh Imatorbhebhe and his ridiculous 47″ vertical jump, wouldn’t this kid be an ideal red zone weapon? No one can jump with him, so it seems a great use of his skills when Darnold throws to his receivers in the End Zone. I have yet to see him used in this capacity. Any thoughts?

Yes, he would. And we’ve seen it a few times on the practice field but not too much. I think the biggest thing with Josh is dependability, proving that he can stay healthy and doing his part on the field. He’s been on again, off again with injuries and when he got in the game against Washington State the route he ran on Sam’s interception was simply not a good one. The good news is that we see flashes of his skills on the practice field and the coaches clearly see the potential, but as we know dependability is high on their list when it comes to more playing time.


Will Sam Darnold demonstrate the prerequisite skills to be a starting QB in the NFL by the end of this season?

I think how Sam performs the rest of the year and how he’s viewed by the NFL will depend so much on how things come together around him. Sam has been the one constant this year for an offense that has seen injuries and player flux at RB, WR, TE and OL. If we can get some key players back, I think we’ll see a familiar Sam.

SC Forever

I had high hope for Oluwole Betiku when he came out of high school. I thought this will be his break out season but so far, it’s been kind of disappointment. Is Rasheem Green playing this Saturday?

Wole has talked about the transition with the mental/instinctive part of the game being a hurdle, as his background in the sport is pretty limited. I think most everyone expected him to be further along at this point, and it was telling in practice this week to see Juliano Falaniko getting the 2nd team reps ahead of him behind Uchenna Nwosu. Nothing firm on Rasheem as he isn’t practicing but my guess is we will see him out there.


Are the reps increasing for Trevon, Josh, Grimes, Jo Lewis, and the other young receivers in practice? Who does it appear is gaining more confidence and reps from the coaches? Out of our 10 WRs, there could be some productive players that emerge.

Last week was as good a week as we’ve seen from Josh. Trevon has seen his reps rise a little as the season has gone along. Joseph Lewis has made some runs but he also got hurt a few weeks back and hasn’t really gotten back in a groove. Grimes has gotten a lot of work this week, but that wasn’t the case last week which was part of the reason it was surprising to see him burn the redshirt.


When will USC emphasize recruiting the OL and DL? Bama, OS, Clemson seem to get those
4 to 5 star linemen on a regular basis.

I thought there was a pretty good job done last year with 5 guys on each side of the line and good quality. I don’t think those numbers will be the same this year but I can see 3-4 on each side.


With there being a small swirl around the comments Sam Darnold made regarding play calling, do you think either his comments and/or play calling have been discussed privately?

From Helton in his post-practice press conference on Tuesday:

“I visit with Sam every Monday, and it was a nice discussion, and I’ll leave that between coach and player”


Have you heard anything about self scouting? Have we struggled because opposing defenses are able to predict our plays? I’m sure I’m not alone in being frustrated with our offense. Have Tee or Clay mentioned anything about getting away from our predictable tendencies? If Sam mentions play calling as an issue it would seem a legit concern.

These coaches pay attention to gathering analytics so the self-scouting information is available. How much is it used? Only the staff really knows that. Last week we talked about the fact that they have a lot of confidence in their game plans, a thought of “we’re going to run our stuff”, and part of that confidence came from it working for 13 games in a row. It will be interesting to see how the games are called in the coming weeks because the spotlight is certainly bright on play calling right now for the offense.


Any clue how the Clay vs Austin battle for RT is going?

Clayton had the better game last week, and it looks like the rotation will continue in this game.


How are some of the freshman that haven’t gotten playing time (redshirting) doing at practice/on the scout team?

There aren’t many. I like Jack Sears and think he will be a good one eventually. Brett Neilon is solid at center, and I like Jay Tufele on the d-line. Jay Godfrey hasn’t seen much action but he had a nice pass break-up during the Tuesday practice.

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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