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WeAreSC Mailbag


Garry, can you provide a list of returning starters and possible replacements for graduating starters on the O-Line for the 2019 season.

I am excited about our offensive potential next season with KK, but our O-Line has been underachieving.

I think the starting o-line next year will be the five members of the 2017 recruiting class (Austin Jackson, Andrew Vorhees, Brett Neilon, Alijah Vera-Tucker and Jalen McKenzie)

Returning starters include QB J.T. Daniels, WR’s Tyler Vaughns, Michael Pittman, Velus Jones and Amon-Ra St. Brown, TE Josh Falo (part-time starter last year), OLB Jordan Iosefa, DT’s Brandon Pili, Marlon Tuipulotu and Jay Tufele, DL Christian Rector, LB John Houston, and safeties Talanoa Hufanga and Isiah Pola-Mao who were starters before getting injured, and kickers Michael Brown and Chase McGrath.


Now that Kliff Kingsbury is in the fold. What are your thoughts on getting someone like Mark Carrier as DB coach? What are the rumblings on a DL coach?

I think Carrier would be a great choice. The credentials are there as a player and coach, and he brings a ton of substance in addition to being a Thorpe Award-winning Trojan defensive back. The big rumor on DL coach is Austin Clark, who played for Clancy at Cal, was a GA for the Trojans two years ago, and worked at Illinois last year.


Will Kliff be Associate HC too?? Will he bring back guys like Drevno and Colbert or start over fresh with a new offensive staff? thanks garry

He will be OC and QB coach but not associate HC. We haven’t heard of any plans for movement off the staff with Drevno or Colbert, in fact recruits have been told that Colbert will be the WR coach. But it is interesting that Drevno has no experience with the Air Raid system so it’s possible we could see someone brought in to help there. Brandon Jones coached with Kingsbury at TTech and at Cal when Sonny Dykes ran this offense there.


Garry, how do you think Clay will handle the fact that his new OC is more of a star than himself? Do you feel he is the type of person that has the ability to set his ego aside and lead by following?
Fight On!

It’s a valid question and one worth watching. We saw the impact it had on Pete Carroll when Norn Chow got a lot of attention, it helped lead to Chow having play calling taken away and given to the combination of Sarkisian and Kiffin. And Pete was a more secure, experienced coach than Helton and was coming off a national championship.


What is the resume of Mark Carrier as a coach?
We know he was a great player.

He coached at ASU, and in the NFL with the Ravens, Jets and Bengals.


Garry, do you know if there is any clarification as to whether Kingsbury asked for total control over the offense as rumored, and if so, was that granted to get him signed?

No, we haven’t heard any clarification on that yet but it will be very interesting to find out. Helton has always maintained the ability to have input in offensive decisions so will he give up that control? We’ll find out.


GarryP, will Kingsbury also call plays in games and is he the qb coach as well?

Yes and yes.


Do you think the ship has sailed on Sean Rhyan? Thanks.

It would surprise me if things change with Sean. He has been pretty deliberate through the process and stayed under the radar while doing his diligence on the schools he was interested in. I would love to see the hire of Kingsbury change his mind or for us to make another move that would get him to flip but I don’t see it happening, and that’s a shame for us because he is a good one.


Now that Kliff Kingsbury is signed up to take the Trojan offense to a new level. What are your thoughts on getting some of the top premier offensive recruits in 2019/2020 to commit?

I think it’s going to have a positive impact on offensive recruits and the first names I’m going to look at are Bru McCoy and Kyle Ford. We’ve already heard comments from McCoy about the increased opportunities that should come for receivers in this system, and Kingsbury will be in attendance on Saturday at the state finals game to watch Bru and the Mater Dei Monarchs in action against DeLaSalle. One name I’m paying attention to for 2020 is Gary Bryant from Centennial, a dynamic slot receiver who would seem to fit the kind of playmaker role this system can really utilize. And we already have a commitment from a QB in Bryce Young for 2020 who also fits well.

Burak Uslu

Garry, I would like to ask two questions that everyone wants to know:

1) Is Kingsbury get to name his choice of QB or start players that he likes?

We haven’t heard confirmation on those kind of details yet but it would surprise me if he doesn’t have control over naming his QB.

2) Will Kingsbury affect practices? I heard a year ago that some offensive starters were practising with special teams instead of offence. Basically long of a leash that Kingsbury get?

Sure, his system requires a lot of practice time and repetitions in order to get the timing down so practices will need to be adjusted for that. As far as special teams, there are certain offensive players who are on special teams so they would need to be taking part when those drills are being worked on, nothing out of the ordinary about that.


Assuming Kingbury has control of the offense, do you think he and the coaching staff will now review its offensive recruits and let Kingsbury decide who he wants to pursue for his system?

It wouldn’t surprise me if we see some players get interest that weren’t as high on the radar before. One name to watch is quarterback Maverick McIvor, who was committed to Kingsbury at Texas Tech but who de-committed after he was fired. McIvor had been offered by the Trojans over the summer, and it has always been thought that Helton wanted to take two quarterbacks in this class anyways, so he could be paired with Kedon Slovis for this class. There is still work to be done on the offensive line so perhaps we see some new names there too but as for running backs, tight ends and receivers we are pretty set at those spots (that’s with the possibility of adding McCoy and Ford at receiver).


Hopefully with a new system and with fresh eyes, that it will become an open competition and spark something in these players that cause them to work harder and be more ready for the fall than they have been in recent years. On that note, from This point on until fall how much time do the coaches get with the players, and in what capacity? Since there will be a new playbook and terminology what is the strategy for the players to be prepared for spring and ultimately fall and 2019 season?. Seems like the players will really need to stop up, so who do you think will emerge as team leaders to set the tone this “no offseason” offseason?..Thanks.

There is limited on-field time that the coaches get to spend with the players in the off-season outside of spring ball so you are right in that it will be critical for the players to take it upon themselves to get that extra work on their own (and in the film room too). This is a natural opportunity for J.T. Daniels as the incumbent quarterback to establish his role as a leader even more, although it will be interesting to see what kind of push Jack Sears or Matt Fink can make. I would also be looking to veteran receivers like Michael Pittman and Tyler Vaughns to help lead the way.


Talofa Garry!

What are your thoughts of ucla getting the commitment from Sean Rhayman? Is this one over?

Also, hearing Mase Funa is having 2nd thoughts. You hearing this as well?

Really would like both of them.
Thanks Garry!

I definitely think the chances are better of flipping Funa than Ryhan at this point. Mase came on an official visit this past weekend with his parents and it went well, especially with the impact the academic side of things had on him. He will take an official visit to Oregon this weekend so the Ducks will have one more chance to sell him, and then he will have in-home visits with both schools next week before making his decision.


I read an analysis of JT’s offense his last year in HS (contained videos and in depth analysis too. Very informative). They ran only 2 RPO plays and the rest was a lot like a KK offensive. He, as you know, put up gaudy numbers. I’m of the mind that he’d be great running the new offense. What are your thoughts?

I share your opinion, I think J.T. as a passer is going to fit really well with this system. One of the things Kingsbury does well is tweak his system to fit the skill set of his QB and with J.T. he’ll find a guy who already fits in terms of timing and decision-making, two critical elements of what makes his system work.


Anything interesting in the cards for early signing day?

There is always the possibility of some flips and two key guys to watch are Mase Funa and Jonah Tauanu’u. And with the hire of Kingsbury there could be some new names entering the mix. Don’t be surprised if the Trojans come close to filling their class in this early period too.


I assume the answer is no, but did Helton make any substantive changes to the way the team practiced before the ND game, and if so, is there any indication he took the results to heart and plans on building upon that going forward?

No, in fact the Notre Dame practices were notable for their business as usual approach without the usual energy associated with Notre Dame week. I think that’s one of the items of the Swann/Helton plan that really bears watching, what kind of changes (if any) are made to the practices.


Nobody seems to be talking about what happens to the offense when Kingsbury is gone after next season? Is he a one year “fix” for this team?

Assuming Swann and Helton didn’t predict that he would be fired, I’d think they had something else in mind in their decision making, prior to this Kingsbury thing. As hot a commodity as what is reported, I don’t think he’s sticking around too long. It looks like LA is the convenient place for him to be right now, with his supposed ties to the region.

If the team wins next year, Clay isn’t going anywhere. If the team loses, say, 4 games, it would mean Kingsbury failed along with Clay. If the team wins 3 games, I would think Clay stays. Kingsbury would have had a whole year to think his future, and the pressure from offers may be much more than what it is now.

There’s a lot of speculation in there and we obviously don’t know what’s going to happen. Even if Kingsbury ends up being a short term option I still think it’s one of the best things that could have happened to Swann/Helton because it’s provided some much needed energy and hope that, let’s face it, simply wasn’t there after Swann sent out his statement announcing that Helton was staying on the job. I don’t know of too many other hires that could have accomplished that.


Garry if time allow how about a rundown of the staff as it sits today. And please include any thoughts on the remaining staff and what is so special about them that they were retained.

Head coach: Clay Helton
OC/QB: Kliff Kingsbury
WR: Keary Colbert (not announced by school yet but recruits are being told it will happen. Technician, tremendous understanding of details of the position, has paid his dues for this opportunity)
OL: Tim Drevno (solid credentials in power run game but not with Air Raid)
DC/ILB: Clancy Pendergast (fan base is split, can develop very effective game plans at times but not as consistent or aggressive as many would like)
DL: TBD (rumored to be Austin Clark, has familiarity with Clancy system, some would prefer veteran disciplinarian in this role, Ed Orgeron/Marv Goux-type)
OLB: Johnny Nansen (solid all-around football knowledge, tremendous recruiter)
ST: John Baxter (another spot where fan base is split but Helton is sold on him and refers to him as best special teams coach in America)


Hi Garry,

Swann’s memo about keeping Helton included a laundry list of items that needed fixing. The hiring of KK ticks off scheme, personnel and staff — at least on offense. But items like culture and discipline can’t be fixed so easily. And we have the same guy in charge. How on earth can the culture of an organization be fixed when the guy who created it is still there? What do you think?

I share your questioning because I believe Helton genuinely went about installing the beliefs and teachings that he wanted to put in, and I don’t know how you change that unless you truly change your own thinking. Perhaps some of it (such as discipline) will come from assistant coaches, or with direction/advice from Swann or other veteran consultants, but you can’t stray too far from your core beliefs as a coach or kids will see right through that. So the question becomes, can Helton adapt? One of the first signs of that will be how much control he is willing to give up to Kingsbury.



You among others have mentioned that Mase Funa may be rethinking his options and considering SC. What position does he project to play if he comes here?

Mase has said the coaches talked to him primarily about the Predator position that Porter Gustin played although it’s possible he could get a look inside as well. I think he fits well on the edge at Predator.


Any idea on when other openings will be filled and do you have any information on who candidates are to fill them
Is Coach Nassen moving to RB coach or is that open now that Kingsbury is the OC

I don’t know a time frame to fill the remaining spots but my guess is it won’t be long, certainly in time for the early signing day on the 19th. For the defensive spots we’ve heard Austin Clark for DL, and names like Mark Carrier, Donte Williams and Gerald Alexander for DB coach. The offensive spots could be interesting because of the input Kingsbury could have in getting guys who know his system but we haven’t heard any specific names yet. It doesn’t look at this point like Nansen will move to RB, he is recruiting as if he’s staying at OLB.


Garry, I believe that the Trojans have consistently overlooked your shorter more explosive receivers like M. Brown from Oklahoma and Waddle from Alabama. It seems that finding the next Mike William’s or Dwayne Jarrett has been the focus.

Do you see Kingsbury being allowed to have a more balanced plan for recruiting the position. It would be nice to see some explosive run after the catch plays added to the offense next year.

I think Puka Nacua in this class is a very good “run-after-catch” player but I also mentioned earlier in the mailbag a 2020 prospect in Gary Bryant who fits what you describe as the shorter yet explosive guy who can really fly. Don’t be surprised if Bryant is a big priority for next year.


What is Kingsbury’s reputation as a recruiter in college recruiting circles? I’ve seen plenty of pics lately of in-home visits, and guys like Lenny Vandermade and Michael Hutchings don’t make me feel very confident that USC has any dynamic recruiters sitting in the living rooms of these recruits. Any prospects of Kingsbury hitting the recruiting trail before the early signing period?

Yes, Kingsbury will hit the recruiting trail asap and will be at the Mater Dei game on Saturday night. For lack of a better word I think he’ll be a “rock-star” as a recruiter for USC, primarily with skill players in the area. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t sell a guy like Hutchings short. His former teammates Max Browne and Robby Kolanz seem to think he would fare pretty well.

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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