11 min Read

WeAreSC Mailbag (11-30)

Garry, this is so obscure it almost seems off-topic. Is Olajuwon Tucker still on the team? I was watching a Pac-12 network airing of an SC-UCLA game from a couple years ago and he was playing quite a bit. This year I haven’t heard or seen his name mentioned. I checked and he’s on the 2017 roster. Sorry if you addressed his status earlier in the season.

Yes, he’s still on the team and he practices but I’ve yet to see him dress for a game (he is on the sidelines with his jersey on). No reason has been given although we do know he had academic issues that forced him to miss the Rose Bowl last year.

Hi Garry, is there a reason why receivers try to juke a defender after catch rather than powering forward? It seems to me that they lose yards trying to shake the defender when they would have gained a couple by pushing forward. In the first drive against Arizona, Petite had a 3rd down catch where if he had fallen forward, it would likely have been a first down. Instead he tries to juke, lands short of the sticks, and we turn it over on downs. In the second drive against Colorado, Vaughns had a catch where he had the first down, but instead of running forward, he runs backwards, tries to juke, gets wrapped up short, and we turn it over on downs. Is it a matter of coaching, the player just wanting to make a flashy play and not aware of the situation, or something else?

More often than not it’s just a case of a player trying to make a bigger play. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and when it costs you a first down you already had it’s pretty noticeable (and painful).

Garry, How do you project our D and O lines for this game in terms of depth and shape? Will we have enough of each line ready to play that we will have same success as the first game? Hopefully we’ll see some more players available, we’ve had to throw some younger players into games earlier than hoped due to injuries through the season. But on flip side they are getting valuable experience. Our D line continues to be steady all things considered, but O line still seems inconsistent when pressured.

Things look fairly healthy. On the o-line, the big loss compared to the first game is obviously Viane. I’m pretty content with how Vorhees is playing these days but he’s not the experienced physical presence that Viane was. Losing Porter on the d-line front is big but the combo of Christian Rector and Jordan Iosefa has filled in admirably and I’m fine with them going into the game. We’ve also basically swapped out Marlon Tuipulotu for Brandon Pili and right now that’s a pretty even move. Feel free to disregard what I said at the start if Rasheem Green can’t go but at this point it looks like he plays, it would obviously be a huge loss if he can’t.

When Stanford looks at USC film this week what will be the most important thing(s) they’ll learn about the Trojans since they played them in game #2?

I will go with the improved depth of receiver options. In the first game you had Deontay with 9 catches for 121 and two touchdowns, and Steven Mitchell contributed four for 94 and two scores, but nothing from Vaughns, Pittman or Daniel Imartorbhebhe. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think those three could combine for double digit catches in this game and multiple scores, not to mention what Carr and RoJo could do as they were limited to one catch apiece.

901 Club
Does Tee stay? If not, who replaces him?

That one could go either way. I do think he will have options but I don’t think it’s a done deal that he leaves (unless the Vols come calling). He knows next year he could have Sam and a deep group of receivers (see question above) with a chance to make a big run, one that could net him a major job. If he does leave this year, the likely choice to replace him is Tyson Helton, or perhaps Lynn Swann uses some influence for a different style of offense. A darkhorse could be Deland McCullough, his experience is limited and that would probably hurt his chances but pretty much everything he’s touched has worked in his career.

Helen of Troy


At the high school level running the same play from multiple formations while on offense can be very effective. Is this the case in college also and do you think a team that is young and missing several starters could benefit from this?

One of the trademarks of the Norm Chow offense at USC was that there wasn’t a lot of plays, they were just run from different formations. And Norm was the best play caller I’ve ever seen at the college level so I would say the answer to your question is yes. Norm was also good at adjusting his system to fit what the player could learn, which made it good for younger players too.

Trojan Trev
With the bRuins recent hire of Chip, and ASU’s firing of Todd Graham, it looks like other teams in the PAC 12 South are making marked changes to their coaching staffs, in challenging the Trojans. With a Rose Bowl win last year and a potential Pac 12 title this year for the Trojans, who are the 3 or 4 recruiting “Must Haves” for USC to maintain their perch atop the PAC 12?

Amon-Ra St. Brown, one more big time OT (Jackson Carman?), Solomon Tuliaupupu and Isaac Taylor-Stuart.

Is it possible to delineate how the plays are called? How does Tee and the 2 Heltons function. How much input does Clay have in pre-game planning … and during the game? I don’t seem to recall seeing many … if any … teams who stall at the line of scrimmage while a play is being sent in? Rosen, for just one example, was getting the play as he walked forward to the line. What thoughts are there about whether this is a good way of operating?
Thanks MUCH

Helton was asked the question during the season on a Sunday night media call about how the play calling flow worked between the coaches and he didn’t give any details. In terms of teams stalling at the line of scrimmage, the biggest benefit is to give the play caller time to look at the defense and call the play based on how they are lined up.

Which team will be the “home” team Friday night (i.e. will we wear our home or away uniforms)?

Trojans will be the home team

Johnny Curren reported 11 commits and a projected 9 or less open spots, but he lists a lot of top level recruits still interested in SC. Do you see any of our current commits or prospects as potential blue shirts, early entrants counted to last year, or any other moves we can make to free up spots?

All of the above are in play, we just don’t know yet how things will shake out. How many players declare for the draft, transfer, etc so that spots can open up? Who gets signed at the early signing period and who is left on the board? Who comes in for spring? With blueshirts, keep an eye on recruits who don’t take an official visit or get an in-home visit, those are key qualifying points to be a blueshirt. This year should be even more interesting than most to see the ups and downs because of the new early signing period and how that impacts things.

rose green
TEN wins [so far]. That is very good ! Thanks to the great effort of all the young Trojan players this year…Q. Some fans have very high expectations. They say, “If you want to be a happier FB fan, lower your expectations”. What can coaches and Journalists [like yourself..please exclude Scott Wolf]] do or say to the negative wankers that have unrealistic expectations of say a National Championship EVERY YEAR [eg ND fans]?

If the expectation is a national title every year that’s a pretty high bar for any team. At a school like USC I don’t think there’s anything wrong with expectations of consistently competing for the conference title and, if you do that, it will lead to having your share of shots at the national title.

Garry is it a requirement for the championship game to use Pac 12 officials? It would be great to watch a game without the field littered with flags and five minute officials conferences.

That would be a great statement if other officials were used, unfortunately it will not be the case as far as we know.

A night game up here in December? What was Larry thinking? Why not play in Minnesota next time. Seriously, how do you think the Trojans can have success against the stanford defense?

The first game showed a pretty good plan to succeed against the Stanford defense as USC was the more physical football team and controlled the line of scrimmage, something that hadn’t always been done against the Cardinal in recent years. The Trojans ran multiple back sets and had two backs go over 100 yards, they protected Sam (1 sack for 1 yard) and he threw for over 300 yards, they converted on 10 of 12 third down opportunities, and it all paid off with over 600 yards of offense and 42 points.

This has been one of the most frustrating 10-2 seasons I’ve ever watched. Outside of the first Stanford game, we’ve played uneven at best — but perhaps more accurate to say we’ve played well below our potential. Have you seen player improvement or better player discipline as the season has progressed? I haven’t seen much. If so, do you believe the onus is more on the players or coaches — and will AD Swann hold the coaches responsible? The CK monster is setting up shop across town…

A lot of people share your view. There was one conversation this week at practice that talked about how this team can be inconsistent, not just from game to game but from quarter to quarter and drive to drive. As for playing below their potential, Clay Helton said after the Stanford game that they played to their standard that day, and I don’t think you can reasonably say they’ve played to that standard since. We know that Swann has discussed his personal standards for Trojan football with Helton and we’re about to find out a lot more about how Swann feels based on any moves that might get made, or not made.

Hi Garry, I’m concerned about the kicking game going into the PAC12 championship game and am hoping for some good news. Is Chase ready or do we have to go for every 4 and short yardage near the end zone? Thanks & Fight On!

Helton made a point of noting on Tuesday that McGrath got in work on both days of practice this week, something that hadn’t happened since his injury. Is that enough for him to be full strength for the game? I don’t know but the good news is that he’s made progress.

Is USC putting more emphasis on OL and DL recruiting? It seems like in he recent past
there has been a decline in line All-Americans. The ND game seemed to show that fact.

I give Helton high marks for what he did on both sides of the line in the last class with 5 bodies on each side, and so far it looks like some very good quality in the group. This class is looking very good again on the interior of the DL with a pair of elite commits, and on the offensive side there is a commit from the top OL in the state (and the top OL in the nation coming on a visit soon). There is still work to be done for this class and in the future but so far you can’t ask for much more of an emphasis on the line in terms of results.

Does the “light” practice schedule for the Pac-12 Championship Game concern you? Are we headed for a similar performance to what we saw in Holiday Bowl vs. Wisconsin 2-years ago?

It’s been a similar practice schedule for the last year and a half, ever since the 2016 Utah game, so I don’t expect that to have any different kind of impact.

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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