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WeAreSC Mailbag (4-20 edition)

In this edition of the mailbag we discuss the end of USC football spring ball drills, the recent NCAA rule changes, summer workouts and more:


Assuming (big assumption) that the starting OL will be Chuma, Toa, Nico, Viane and Brown/Hemsley, I have two related questions:

1) I personally didn’t think the offensive line last year was exactly the late 70s Trojans, and I’m guardedly optimistic that they will not drop off much. Do you agree with this? What do you think we should expect from the o-line in 2017?

The biggest difference we saw in spring is that this line should be more athletic, which will allow for more movement in their blocking schemes. This should fit in theory with a quarterback like Sam Darnold.

2) It looks like guys who have been around for awhile like Austin, Johnston, Martin, Cole Smith, etc. have started to improve. Do you think any or all of them are ready for some serious playing time this season, or next?

From that group I thought Johnston was the one who came on at the end of spring and I’ll be anxious to see where he goes in fall camp. Clayton has an impressive frame for the tackle position but needs to continue develop consistency to be in consideration for more time.


What do you think about the new NCAA football rules changes. Do you think rules such as the early signing period hurt or help a school like USC, and does that change the recruitment strategy and types of recruits they go after?

I think it will help USC and Clay Helton because, as one parent of a recruit recently put it, recruiting these days comes down to the integrity of the coach and player. The early signing period is going to force more honest evaluation than ever, and the Trojans should be in good shape there with one of the more genuine coaches you will find. Part of that process will make coaches be more selective in accepting early signees, last year we saw several players who were early commits (Marlon Williams, Daniel Green, James Lynch, etc) but who did not end up in the class, and that flexibility to “move on” from a mutual pledge will not be an option if the player is already signed.


Are we the only top 10 school who didn’t have a real spring game, and how much of a disadvantage is this?

I’m not sure on the other schools but, in the end, I don’t think it was that big of a deal. Don’t get me wrong, I would rather see a spring game than not see one, but I thought the overall day ended up being a good celebration of Trojan football. There were enough plays run to give a taste of guys like Tyler Vaughns and Velus Jones, plus the introductions of the basketball team, Rose Bowl ring presentations and incoming freshmen was a very nice SC touch. I would definitely like to see that continue as part of future spring games. And kudos to Helton for getting Jake Olson in on the final snap.


Kinda adding to this question. How does our attendance compare to other schools?

USC doesn’t traditionally approach some of the southeast or Big 10 schools when it comes to spring game attendance and this year was no exception (there was an announced crowd of just under 15,000). 


With all the injuries, will we see limited hitting practices this year?

I think that’s a real possibility. The coaches are paying a lot of attention to the fact that there is no bye week on the schedule, and they will do what they can to minimize the impact of that, which could include reduced contact in practice. When Pete Carroll was at USC Pro Day, Helton talked to him about how the NFL teams approach long stretches without a bye.


Just wondering what you think about Connor Murphy and his ability to contribute now and his potential for the future. He’s obviously tall and looked athletic. But he also looked pretty skinny for a down lineman.

I was hoping to see more of a leap from Connor (photo above) this spring but it hasn’t really happened yet. I think part of it is simply waiting until he physically matures and adds a little more bulk, and when that happens he could be a real force on the edge. His brother caused us a lot of problems playing a similar position at Stanford and it’s easy to imagine Connor being the same kind of player.


Hi Garry. In your opinion of what you observed on both sides of the ball, do you think USC’s fast moving and aggressive defense will have four quarters of stamina and be able to match the up-tempo offense scoring quickly and often?

There is more depth on the defense this year and that should help Clancy keep players fresh with more of a rotation. This is particularly the case on the interior of the d-line and the secondary, both of those critical areas could potentially have a lot of available options. And I’m hopeful that Betiku can develop into the pass-rush specialist that the defense needs, which would help take some pressure off Nwosu and Gustin.


Spring semester is almost over, and then the guys will be on their own to stay in shape and have voluntary captain’s practices. Last summer Max Browne was one of the key leaders for these summer workouts. Who do you see stepping up this summer to lead these practices? Related, when can Freshmen show up and begin working out with the guys on the team?

Sam Darnold and Chris Hawkins are the two I would expect to be leading things this summer. Freshmen usually show up once their class has graduated, usually mid to late June for most of the guys.


How many wide receivers will be in the rotation for the season.

On the outside I think we’ll see Jalen Greene, Tyler Vaughns, Michael Pittman and Josh Imatorbhebhe. I would love to redshirt both Joseph Lewis and Randal Grimes if at all possible. In the slot we will see Deontay Burnett, Steven Mitchell and Velus Jones, plus Trevon Sidney should be back from hip surgery and he would be in the mix as well.


Probably sick of this question Garry but what are your odds that EJ Price is back for fall camp?

It’s so hard to know where those odds are right now because we know so little about his status. The last confirmed news we had was in February when we learned E.J. was enrolled in classes for the spring semester with a desire to return to the team. Did he finish out the semester? Was he on scholarship? Are there conditions that need to be met for a return? Helton was asked about an update on Price during the final week of spring and he had no comment so we’re still playing the waiting game at this point.

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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