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WeAreSC mailbag (4-21 edition)

by Garry Paskwietz

In this edition of the weekly mailbag we take a look at the decision by Clay Helton to wait on naming a quarterback, defensive line depth issues, the spring game, and more:


Based on the spring training how will you grade the coaching staff?

Who impressed you the most of all the coaches?

Can’t really grade the coaches yet, an incomplete until we see what happens in games.

But there were a few who impressed. First I’ll go with the return of Clancy, just good to have him back and I really think it’s going to pay off with the pressure we see from the front seven. I also like the return of Tommie Robinson and what we saw him bring out physically from Justin Davis. And then Neil Callaway, a no-nonsense coach who will hopefully lead the way for the o-line. And I loved what we saw from Kenechi.

Oscar Batista

Hey Garry, from what I read on this site and others is that it doesn’t seem a lot of people are too happy on how our spring game was played out, that it left more questions than answers. What’s your take on it?

I think that’s a fair assessment because it wasn’t a complete look at the team in a full scrimmage. It was unfortunate that a modified scrimmage needed to take place because this would have been an opportunity for Helton to show the fans what he is trying to build. He had talked earlier in spring about wanting to hold physical sessions in the two Coliseum appearances of the spring, and that meant the spring game in front of the fans. Instead, the fans didn’t get a realistic look at the progress on improving the toughness in the trenches, or the offensive line under Callaway, or the pressure from the defense, etc. And without seeing any kind of answers, the questions in those areas will naturally continue into fall.


Garry how did USC get to the point where they are now so thin at DT? Ill borrow this from the late great Jim Healy who goofed Ive got to know? Did we really have the luxury of offering Boss Tagaloa so late?

Recruiting is the first area you have to look as there is only one upperclass defensive lineman and that’s Kenny Bigelow. Granted, it was the tail end of the scholarship reductions so some hard decisions had to be made on available rides, and d-line got the short end of the stick in the end.

The decision not to offer Boss was a head scratcher, until you realize that the position coach thought he didn’t measure up.


Gary, thank you for all your hard work on covering spring practice. Based on your observations who are the Top 5 offensive and Top 5 defensive players this spring?

Offense: Justin Davis, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Darreus Rogers, Ronald Jones, Max Browne

Defense: Rasheem Green, Porter Gustin, Marvell Tell, Iman Marshall, Uchenna Nwosu


Kind of a sensitive question, but have you sensed any feeling on what the team thinks about the QB situation. Any mention of their preference as to who the guy should be?

No, you really don’t sense any tipping one way or the other by the players. Max has their respect as the leader of the offense right now, and they see (and appreciate) what Sam has done on the field as well. 


After all these years … and such a high rating coming out of Washington … why isn’t Max easily the starter? Does that give us insight to why Cody beat him out?

The main answer I can give is that Sam Darnold showed enough that the competition isn’t done yet. Let me be clear, I saw enough from Max Browne this spring that I would have been very comfortable if Helton had named him the starter this week. If it was my choice, I would have named him. Max threw the ball really well, his accuracy was impressive and he has a great command of what he is doing out there. And I do think Max will be the starter when the Trojans line up against Alabama. With that being said, I can understand Helton’s decision based on the growth we saw from Sam. There were too many plays that he made, too many good throws, many times when the coaches said he didn’t know what he was doing but he made the play anyways. I can understand Helton thinking the gap between the two was too close and not being able to rule out the possibility of Sam overtaking Max in fall camp, so he had to make this choice if he really wants to preach competition.


My question is in two parts, of the defensive linemen who were sidelined because of injury during spring, which ones do you expect back for the season opener and if some holes will remain in the d-line depth chart, are there any offensive linemen who would be candidates to switch to defense and help out?

Kenny Bigelow is the only one expected to miss any time into the season, as far as we know. The fact that Noah Jefferson was able to return in time for the end of spring was a good sign, and it doesn’t sound like the hyperextended elbow he suffered during the spring game is expected to be serious.

If Viane Talamaivao locks down the RG spot you never know if Jordan Simmons could get called upon for any DL duty, considering he played there last year. There hasn’t been any talk of any switches, however, or any signs of it on the practice field.

Trojan Buff

Garry, would you say that Wheeler, Toa, and Banner are locks to start (LT,C,RT) and they’re just figuring out who will start at the guard positions?

I would certainly say that about Wheeler and Banner, and Toa is the projected starter but he hasn’t practiced under Callaway yet so you just never know. Callaway said they would want to get the guard spots settled by no later than two weeks before the opener.


Based on what I saw last year and what I read during the Spring reports, I have high hopes for Hampton. He did not scratch the stat sheet in the spring “game.” Was he injured?

Also, what do you think Boormeester’s chances are of keeping the PK job when the blueshirt kicker arrives? And how is the punter doing?

Hampton can be a solid option but he hasn’t been able to crack into the top part of the receiver rotation. Right now I would put him as the #4 option among the outside receivers behind Smith-Schuster, Rogers and Whitney, and it might not be long before Josh Imatorbhebhe and Michael Pittman are really battling him for reps. I didn’t hear anything about De’Quan being injured before or after the spring game.

My guess is that Boermeester handles placekicks and Michael Brown handles kickoffs.


Does the fluidity of all the different guys who played on the offensive line this past spring signal that our offensive coaches are changing our run game philosophy significantly from last year? In the same way that the Denver Broncos often have smaller, faster linemen and yet run the ball very effectively, does the fact that guys like Damian Mama bumped up and down from first to second team signal a change in philosophy in this regard? If so, does that have implications for who gets the start at QB?

I think it’s mostly a reflection of the fact that Chris Brown is a very good lineman and that Damien has a battle on his hands. The fact that Jordan Simmons got so much time at RG with the 1’s was somewhat of a surprise for me but I don’t see him moving Viane out of there.


What is the skinny on Kevin Scott? Two years ago he was touted as being a diamond in the rough. How now brown cow? Cubic zirconian or the ability to cut glass? What say you?

While we are on the subject…Cole Smith–Back up Center or the product of limited quality depth at that position?

Kevin Scott got bumped into the 2nd unit after Kenny Bigelow went down and he did make a few plays toward the tail end of spring. There’s a lot to like about his potential but he’s still in his redshirt year, long way to go.

Cole is very fundamentally sound but the depth chart will look a lot different in the fall when he may be 4th string. That’s not a reflection on Cole, he will be the starter in due time.


Who are the priority DL recruits SC needs to build the thin line?

I would say Martin Andrus, Jay Tufele and Greg Rogers are west coast interior guys that are top priorities.


Complete these phrases; In 2016….

  1. Christian Rector will…Be a regular part of the rotation behind Rasheem Green
  2. Malik Dorton accounts for…4 sacks
  3. Ykili Ross plays…a lot as a safety who can also be used in cover situations
  4. Daniel Imatorbhebhe….surprises and becomes a game changer on offense.
  5. Uchenna Nwosu….surprises and becomes a game changer on defense.

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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