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WeAreSC Mailbag

This week we answer user questions about Bru McCoy’s potential transfer, the defensive secondary, summer workouts, and recruiting the trenches.


Q: The readiness of the defensive secondary will determine how next season goes. There are no established stars. Who do you think can make a contribution?

A: In limited time, I loved what I saw from Talanoa Hufanga this spring. I think he’s going to be great this season. I also really liked the play and leadership shown by Isaiah Pola-Mao. I think those two are headed for big things. I’m comfortable with Olaijah Griffin at one corner spot. After that, I think Chase Williams can be solid as a nickel corner and either Greg Johnson or Isaac Taylor-Stuart can step up opposite Griffin. I don’t know if the secondary will be a strength early on, based on the relative inexperience at every position, and there will absolutely be some growing pains. But I think that starting group has a chance to be good. The worry comes in after that group, because thinking you’ll get those five guys to play every single snap of the season is a little naïve. I’m curious to see the incoming players in the secondary, because a couple of those guys could be asked to play early, and I just don’t know which ones will show up ready to go.


Q: Just looking for some insight on the coaching staff. Last season’s staff as a group, seemed disjointed, and confused with no communication like they hated each other and hated winning. I’m being dramatic but it wasn’t good. Does this staff seem to fit well and respect each other working cohesively and communicating game plans and needs. I mean do they like each other? Is the sum greater than the parts? We haven’t sunk this low because a lack of talent.

And what do you think are the characteristics of an elite HC? Does CH exhibit these( strengths/weakness)? Can he learn to be elite?

A: There were definitely some issues with how last year’s staff operated, and I think through spring ball, we saw a lot of steps in a positive direction in that regard. There is a clear and consistent voice on offense, as Graham Harrell has been given the authority to coach the offensive staff and he sure looked like the one voice controlling playcalling and the offensive philosophy. On defense, we heard every position coach talk focusing on what defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast wanted in terms of scheme and productivity. I think having one clear vision on both sides of the ball and every coach understanding how to carry that out will go a long way toward a season without as many clear communication issues.

I think an elite head coach knows what every aspect of his program looks like, from the play on the field to the body type of his players, to how the recruiting department operates, to the weight program. Everything. I think every coach is going to mess up in-game decisions on occasion, where they’ll punt or go for it in the wrong situation. Obviously too many of those and you start to question the coach. But I look at Stanford’s David Shaw as a good example. I think he makes some terrible in-game calls occasionally, but I’d let that guy run my program in a second. He has a plan and he knows what his program looks like from every angle, every step of the way. I think Helton has a chance to get there, but there’s no question that he’s been learning as he goes at USC.

I think this offseason we saw him take a step back and try to firmly establish what he wants his program to look like—focusing this spring on discipline, allowing his coordinators to handle their respective units, and preaching ball security on offense and creating turnovers on defense. I’m not going to hold last season against him heading into this fall, because he’s treating this whole situation like USC did in fact hire a new coach this past offseason (though last season did shorten his leash quite a bit). I’m not guaranteeing it will work, but I do think he’s moving more toward the kind of organization that works for elite coaches. The one thing I want to see is how tough this team is. If Helton doesn’t have the ability to dial the toughness up in a real way, fielding a consistently successful team is not a possibility.  


Q: How much coverage will you have of voluntary summer workouts ?
Your thoughts on how the participation level and intensity may determine the tone of fall practice

A: It doesn’t seem like media will be present for much (or any) of summer workouts. We are unable to cover workouts on Howard Jones/Brian Kennedy Fields, and at this point it looks like they will all take place there.

We’re always able to glean quite a bit from participation levels and intensity during those summer workouts. You can see how much the guys want it. There was always a little skepticism about the upcoming season when there was too much joking around during the summer workouts and certain guys would sometimes go a whole session and you’d realize at the end that they hadn’t really done anything. I think good teams can find a good balance between having fun and taking real steps forward as a program during the summer.

Touchdown for USC

Q: Where do the Trojans stand with 2020 offensive and defensive linemen?

A: A number of offers to offensive linemen went out recently, as I referenced in last week’s recruiting update. There hasn’t been as much movement along the defensive line, but in-state guys like Tuli Tuipulotu, DeShawn Lynch, and Omarr Norman-Lott hold offers. I think the lineman camp this summer will shine some light on the bigger targets.


Q: What do you think about the coaches’ strategy of making Texas a major recruiting target? I understand that Harrell and Jinks have a lot of connections in Texas and probably are well known to a lot of Texas recruits, but signing out of state recruits is always dicey and could be a major waste of time/resources. Could it also be due to the fact that top local recruits are not showing a lot of interest in SC so the coaches have had to turn to other sources for top recruits?

A: USC needs to have recruiting success close to home, but it’s also a school that needs to be able to pull guys out of Texas or the Southeast if it really wants to compete nationally at this point. Going into Texas isn’t going to be as easy as just offering one guy and getting a commitment. We’ve seen this in California with schools like Alabama, Clemson, Nebraska, and Texas. Those programs have been making more and more offers in California for years, planting seeds so that future prospects see them as viable places (obviously winning a lot does that as well). I don’t know if all these Texas offers will result in commitments this year, but it definitely helps the Trojans in future classes.


Q:  Erik, great to see all the offers going out, however it always seems like by the time we offer bama, georgia buckeyes, oklahoma etc offered them months ago, or a year ago and we are playing catch-up. 
What takes the coaches so long to offer and what is the thinking behind this strategy?

A: The coaches are going to make their own decisions on guys, and sometimes you just don’t see film or hear about a guy as early as other program. We’ve seen USC go in as the first offer or one of the first offers to a number of recruits in recent years. I am interested to see if USC can keep up with the programs that have obviously changed their timeline to keep up with the early signing period. I think USC has been caught a little flat-footed with how much that changed things.


Q: Jimmy Hoffa had a reputation for many things, one of which is he would clean house immediately upon arrival. This would set the tone from the start as well as give confidence to the people left because they knew he had already gotten rid of those he did not want around. 

New President Carol Holt takes over July 1. Any chance of her cleaning house in the administration (including new AD) or BOT (to the extent possible) upon her arrival?

A: I think just about everything is on the table with the new president. I still haven’t heard anything negative about her being the selection, which is a very good thing considering some of the decisions that USC has made recently.


Q: What’s up with Bru??

A: Reports surfaced from 247 early Monday morning that Bru McCoy (photo above) is considering transferring back to USC. I believe this is something we’ll find out sooner rather than later. There is nothing confirmed at this point, but there is absolutely a chance that this happens.

McCoy originally committed to USC during the 2019 All-America Game, enrolled at USC and then entered his name into the transfer portal in January, just a few weeks into his USC tenure.

If I had to guess right now, I’d say McCoy winds up back at USC, but Texas coaches (after fully supporting his decision to follow his heart to leave USC for the Longhorns) will undoubtedly work to try keeping him in Austin.

Erik McKinney

Erik McKinney began writing for WeAreSC in 2004, during his junior year at USC, covering the Trojans football team and recruiting. He then moved on to ESPN.com in 2011, where he served as the West Region recruiting reporter and then the Pac-12 recruiting reporter. He took over as publisher of WeAreSC in January, 2019.

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