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WeAreSC Mailbag

This week’s mailbag answers reader questions about the search for a new athletic director, Devon Williams entering the transfer portal, how the USC offense is functioning, and, as always, whether the Trojans will win on Saturday.

Helen of Troy

Q: Erik…are we going to win?

A: Yes. Trojans move to 3-0 and I’m not sure how many people would have said that with confidence a few months ago.


Q: How is Bru McCoy doing health wise, and has there been anything on his eligibility status from the NCAA?

A: The last time Clay Helton spoke about McCoy, he said that they were taking their time with the waiver, and “they” certainly seemed to refer to USC, rather than the NCAA. I don’t think anybody involved is worried about Bru being cleared or not, or even getting onto the practice field this fall. There has been nothing confirmed about his health, but it feels like everyone from McCoy to his family to Helton to USC are comfortable just letting him take some time away from football right now.


Q: After the impressive cleanup runs by Markese Stepp, is there a chance he will be getting more reps?

A: I know how good Stephen Carr and Vavae Malepeai have been through two games, but I would love to see Markese Stepp get more carries. I understand if he needs to become more of a complete back like the other two are, but he is so much fun to watch and it sure felt like he earned more time with his performances during spring ball and fall camp. But I don’t think this is a case where the coaches saw what he could do with those three carries and will now try to make room for him. They already knew what he was capable of doing. We’ll see what his playing time looks like moving forward.


Q: Any word when Jordan Iosefa will be ready to play and where will he play? My concern is EA with over pursuing and missing tackles. Can Iosefa alleviate this to improve our LB play especially when we face a mobile QB.

A: Iosefa is an interesting one to me because he only played middle linebacker this spring and fall before getting hurt. He and John Houston were going to man that position, but I’ve been pretty impressed with Houston through two games. I get that the coaches want their two veteran guys at that position, but if Houston is solid there, do they give Iosefa a look at spelling Gaoteote a bit and playing those seniors together? It’s not something the coaches have talked about to this point, but I’d imagine Iosefa could fairly quickly make the move. But there is also the point that Houston is going to need some backup with the upcoming schedule (Utah, Washington, Notre Dame, Oregon, etc.) and letting those two rotate could be the simple answer there.


Q: While it’s still VERY early into the 2019 football season, with the success USC has had so far, has it lead to any positive vibes/rumors with any high level recruits?

A: Recruits are taking notice, but there is still a long ways to go. The offensive guys will be easier to recruit than the defensive guys, because they know what this offense is capable of. The issue is that they’re still going to be hearing constantly about the potential coaching change, because that’s going to be an angle for the media and for opposing coaches until a firm answer is there. That calendar is moving pretty quickly toward mid-December for this 2020 class, but I think this year has the chance to get USC back into things with the 2021 guys.


Q: What can you tell us about the search for the next AD? Specifically I am wondering about the logistics and time frame involved: Is it customary for people to change positions at the end of the school year? Is there typically a long delay between naming an AD and having them in place? Do you get the impression that a genuine search is being conducted for a qualified person with experience and that people outside the Trojan family are being considered? Thanks

A: My sense is that USC doesn’t want to rush this, but they don’t want to spend a ton of time without an athletic director, either. There really is no set timetable for when an AD hire could take place, as athletic director hirings are announced throughout the year, and there shouldn’t be much of a delay at all in someone being announced and having them in place. I do think there is a genuine search being performed and there is a desire to get someone who has done the job before. I think that criteria outweighs the “outside the Trojan family” criteria, but the initial preference certainly was to hit on both of those.


Q: 1. Do you think that the way they are practicing week to week has legit changed? (i know you don’t see a full practice) or was Stanford just not ready for Harrell’s offense? and do you have any indication on how this staff will or could achieve that to keep things going, just theoretically?

2. When does the team work out/use the weight room during the game week?

A: I don’t think there is much difference in the way they are practicing now compared to what we saw in the spring and fall. Those practices set the tone for the season and they’re just carrying that through. I think Stanford was as ready as they could be. That’s just a glimpse at what this offense can do. There wasn’t anything tricky about it. It spreads out the defense, makes them play in space, and then takes advantage of having really good athletes. According to Harrell, the only thing that makes you better in this offense is taking more reps. So, by that token, the offense should only keep improving as the year goes along. Obviously they’ll have some tweaks for different teams, but the offense is the offense, and for the most part, that’s what it’s going to look like.

I’m not sure of the exact schedule of when guys are in the weight room during the season.


Q: The timing of the announcement of Swann’s “resignation” seems unusual. Do you have any insight to why it came when it did? And could this negatively affect the team’s focus?

A: I don’t think Swann’s firing will have any effect on the team whatsoever. This team dealt with so much off-season drama and has had to be so laser-focused trying to come back from that 2018 season that anything having to do with Lynn Swann won’t both them at all. I think the timing was unusual only because it came on the heels of the big win against Stanford. But it was going to happen this fall, and it wasn’t going to be because of a loss or a string of losses. I don’t think you can do a full and fair search for a replacement while the job is occupied, so Monday made as much sense as any other day. I am glad you put resignation in quotation marks.


Q: How are you guys going to fill a whole mail bag? What with such a slow week, and really not much happening in Trojan-landia.

A: We can just add questions like this to give it some extra length.


Q: Who’s the one player on the BYU offense or defense that concerns you the most?

A: Really nobody. BYU doesn’t have that one guy on either side of the ball capable of wrecking a game play. It’s more about a sum of the parts–the defensive line and linebackers using their collective size to bother the offensive line. Or if the offense can finally find the right combination of pass and run to keep the USC defense off balance. If I had to pick a guy on both sides, I think running back Ty’Son Williams will be a key. He got things going a little bit against Tennessee and he can be a load to bring down. Quarterback Zach Wilson is talented, but I don’t think he can beat USC by himself, without a running game. Defensively, linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi is a guy who can both get into the backfield and step into passing lanes, so he’s probably a guy to watch.


Q: With all of the focus tuned in on covering our wide receivers, it would appear that this week might be the time to shift some passing opportunities onto our talented tight ends to give the opposing linebackers and safeties a little bit more to think about.

What are your thoughts on getting them more involved in the passing game schemes?

A: I don’t think anybody is avoiding using the tight ends. But when you have this collection of talent at wide receiver, and they are open the way they have been, I can’t fault the coaches or the quarterback for throwing to them. I do think we’ll see more from the tight ends as the season goes along. But I don’t think that in this offense there will ever be a concerted effort to get someone involved just to get them involved. Everything is about taking what is open, so if the defense leaves the tight ends open, they’ll get the ball.

Gold Trojan

Q: How experienced is BYU’s OL and DL? It’s those 4th and 5th year guys that can create nightmare matchups in the trenches.

A: The offensive line has some game experience, but they aren’t exactly veterans. They don’t start a single senior along the line, as they go with three redshirt sophomores and two redshirt juniors. Defensively, they’re a little older, with a junior, two redshirt juniors, and a redshirt senior listed in the starting lineup. But of the 12 guys listed on the depth chart as defensive linemen, only two are seniors or redshirt seniors.


Q: I realize the offense is still developing and evolving and Saturday it seems the offense ran 61 plays. Stanford ran 63. Is this offense created to run more plays a game than this. If so i am wondering the reason it did not. Was it the opponent, inexperience, substitutions, officials? If the offense isnt running as quickly as it has been designed at what point in the season do you think this will fall into place, barring more major injuries? And do you see more involvement in the offense from a couple of our fastest players, Velus Jones and Kenan Christon. Velus really looks good with the ball in his hands this year. Can we expect to see Ford anytime soon?

A: The coaches have consistently mentioned running 85-90 plays a game, but when you’re getting yards in chunks like they were against Stanford, you’d rather than the points than the plays. There were a couple drives early that stalled, and then once they got up pretty big, there was less pressure to go fast. Not to mention, Stanford held the ball in the third quarter for almost 11 of the 15 minutes.


Q: Now Devon Williams is in the portal. Seems early in the year to make such a decision and he has had his issues. What are your thoughts?


Q: Devon Williams portalized? Has he left the team like Sears? or just seeking permission to be contacted by other teams?

A: I think Devon Williams made a quick decision based off two early games. I think he shows potential at times but never put it all together. And that’s not surprising, considering he’s two games into his true sophomore season and came into USC as a terrific athlete but a bit of a project at wide receiver. I think whatever time and experience he got on the field this season would have set him up wonderfully to potentially grab a starting spot next season. But he’ll take a look around, and honestly, if USC is going to lose a player and open up a scholarship for the 2020 class, wide receiver is a spot where you can afford that. Not only because of what the roster looks like right now, but how quickly true freshmen can make an impact.

Williams was not at practice on Wednesday.


Q: Why does the NCAA take so long to make decisions about eligibility? Don’t they have rules laid out? A decision tree? Critical path – flowchart – yes / no / go / no-go? Is it a problem of sheer volume, especially with the transfer portal kicking into high gear? Not enough employees with the authority to make decisions? Do they have a published process? It blows my mind that it takes them so long to issue decisions. Don’t they have a time limit to respond once a request is submitted? Do schools / conferences have any legal recourse if it seems like they are dragging their feet? I would think that if they have set rules / standards / guidelines in place, and student athletes and/or schools submit a package, 1 person could sit in a room and see if the required boxes are checked and make a decision in minutes…and rip through hundreds a day. Or maybe…Is it a question of verifying the truth and accuracy of the submitted requests? I just don’t get it. Bru McCoy’s case / scenario being an anomaly that might not be covered in their current rule set, but that just means you take ten minutes and decide what is right and create policy / precedent and move on. Having standardized set of rules to bounce each case off of would result in consistent and fair decisions and speed up the process. Have a separate group handle appeals – they can look closer at things like intent, precedent, history, etc…but make the initial decisions in a timely manner. Am I oversimplifying things?

A: We have not been told specifically that USC has even submitted a waiver for Bru McCoy to the NCAA, so until that happens, the NCAA has nothing to rule on. With regard to transfers and eligibility overall, the NCAA keeps setting rules and then adjusting them as they see fit. It would be great if they made a rule that said one thing without the possibility of a waiver or adjustment or hoping for some kind of ruling. That way student-athletes would know exactly what was waiting for them on the other side of that transfer decision–either sitting out a year or a few games, or not at all. But when you have different rules for different people, it creates chaos and absolutely a feeling of an uneven playing field.

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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