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WeAreSC Mailbag (10-6 edition)

by Garry Paskwietz

In this edition of the mailbag we discuss more on Sam Darnold, the potential of Josh Fatu to get more time in the d-line rotation, and look at both Jonathan Lockett and Jackie Jones in the secondary:


Is it true that there is talk about setting up a new religion around Sam Darnold? I know he looks pretty good out there, but is he really the second coming? Actually in all seriousness, there have been a lot of people saying they are worried that Sam is making the coaches look good, so they may be retained when they might otherwise be let go. Is that a fair assessment? Isn’t it assumed that we will have really good players in each position?

I don’t know that there will be a new religion any time soon but Darnold has certainly provided a lot of hope to the Trojan program right now. It remains to be seen where it all goes because, after all, it has only been two games with Sam in the starting line-up but I can’t remember the last time a USC quarterback came in and provided this much of a jolt in his first two starts. And yes, I think the good play of a quarterback, especially when it leads to wins, can impact the status of a head coach.


Who do you expect will play QB for Colorado Saturday? We have seen Lufau before. What do you know about Montez? Should the Colorado passing attack really scare us?

The reports coming of out Boulder are that both quarterbacks are getting reps with the 1’s this week. My guess is we will see Montez, if for no other reason than he is the hot hand. I’ve actually got a lot of respect for Sefo Liufau and I think he’s been a big part of Colorado building their program back up but you can’t argue with what Montez has done since he got into the line-up. In some ways it is very similar to what Darnold has done for the Trojans, a redshirt freshman coming in and bringing energy with both his arm and his legs. Helton talked about how the Buffs passing offense is very good at hitting the short passes, hitting the short passes and then when you bring the defense up to stop it, hitting the deep pass. They have a pair of receivers in Ross and Fields who can both get deep.


Please give an honest assessment of the OL. Particularly, what’s missing? Is it fixable? If you see problems are they physical or mental?

I don’t think the line is where they were hoped to be as the dominant unit of the offense. For whatever reason things just haven’t clicked at that level yet between the group of experienced players and a veteran coach who was supposed to bring that added toughness element, and the problems have involved both physical and mental. The lapses in penalties (such as the false starts against Stanford) have been surprising, there hasn’t been a consistency in finishing blocks, and they aren’t particularly athletic by USC standards. But I think the ASU game was arguably the best of the year for the line, and we’re seeing that they may not need to be that “mauler” group in order to be a good fit for this offense with Darnold at quarterback.


Noah Jefferson – I know Clay said Noah is likely out until November to catch up on school, etc. – but:

  1. what is the state of his A/C injury?
  2. Is he still in school and actually attending classes etc?
  3. is Noah still with the team in any manner? going to rehab? attending team meetings? training table? working with Ivan Lewis to stay in shape? etc.

There aren’t a lot of specific answers to give on your questions because the two areas the university doesn’t give a lot of details on are injuries and academics. As far as the injury, we know he had rehabbed on his back while still attending practice and getting work on the sidelines, not sure why that wouldn’t apply now with his current injury, or what the status is. And other players have continued to practice or play despite academic issues so we don’t know why that would prevent Noah from being out there, especially when you consider the need for quality defensive linemen right now.


What do you think of the current in-game rotation between our main 3 running backs?

I would like to see Justin Davis get a bigger share of the carries. I appreciate the thought of a rotation, and both Jones and Ware are certainly capable backs who are our future, but Justin is running with a lot of passion right now and I wouldn’t mind seeing him carry the ball 20 times or more per game.


How do we not continuously put Fatu in there with Greene and Stevie? I think he has played tremendously well and is not utilized nearly enough.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Josh (photo above) start to get into the rotation more in the coming weeks. We really didn’t see a lot of rotating anywhere on the defense in the early weeks but I think we will start to see it more, and Josh is one of the guys who has shown he can make plays when he’s in there.


Does Darnold =Future



It doesn’t seem like Jack Jones is getting the minutes on the field that I expected, considering the praise that accompanied him out of high school. Can we expect him to play a much more significant role in the coming weeks?

I’m not sure what your expectations were through 5 games, I think there was an opening for a nickel corner coming into the season with Adoree’ and Biggie coming back as starters, and most people figured Jackie would compete with Langley, Ajene and Lockett for that role. I think there are a few things we’ve seen, one as mentioned above is that Clancy simply didn’t dip into the reserve pool that much in the early weeks of the season, so Jackie probably didn’t get as much time as others like Adoree’ or Biggie got right away. The second is his ankle injury suffered against Utah which limited him in that game, and against ASU. Third, I think the emergence of Lockett has been somewhat of a surprise. Someone among that group of reserves figured to rise up, many thought it could be Jackie but not too many projected Lockett, but that’s what we’ve seen so far.


Seeing Stanford and McCaffrey having difficulty running the ball against Washington without their injured 250-pound fullback lead blocking into the hole (replaced by a 215-pound fullback) underscores the importance of a big blocking fullback in smash mouth football. Helton says he likes that kind of football, but are we even looking at recruiting a monster blocking/catching fullback?

Helton has said in the past that he would be looking to recruit a fullback but we haven’t heard of any specific targets this year.


I watched a replay of the game and Jonathan Lockett really looked good. He looks like he’s really improved, seems to know what he’s doing and can be counted on to play well. He’s also kind of come out of nowhere; seemed like a forgotten man there for awhile. Garry, can you comment on Lockett, his development and prospects for the future?

It’s been a very pleasant development to see Jonathan play this way. I think you’re accurate to describe him as somewhat of a forgotten man for a while but those who saw him at Mater Dei knew he had it in him because he was a playmaker kind of guy in high school. I think you can credit part of his recent success to fitting well in Clancy’s scheme since one of his skills is that he’s a good cover corner, and I also think he’s able to physically match up better after a couple years in the SC strength & conditioning program. Moving forward I see him as the nickel corner getting plenty of playing time.

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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