In this edition of the mailbag we discuss trick plays, Sam Darnold-mania, Grant Moore and summer workout guidelines:
Garry, have you ever wondered why USC doesn’t schedule any of the service academies? I ask because notre dame does this and seems to get a lot of goodwill on the balance sheet. Besides having Air Force in our neighborhood, playing Navy in San Diego and then in D.C. would be an example of how it could work.
One main reason to remember is that USC only has two non-conference opponents to fill each year (the Irish annually take up the third spot) while Notre Dame has an entire schedule to fill since they have no conference affiliation. I agree that it would be nice to play an academy team if it worked out but it’s a lot easier for Notre Dame to do it with so many open spots.
Can you name the top 2 or 3 trick plays you have seen USC run successfully.? Can you suggest if a Sam Darnold run offense should leverage the element of surprise in the coming season and if so, what type of plays would you recommend.
The one that sticks out in my mind is the reverse pass from Mike Williams to Matt Leinart that went for a touchdown in the 2004 Rose Bowl. It was such the right call at the right time and the image of Leinart holding the ball high as he crossed the goal line is an iconic one in Trojan history. It was a play that Norm Chow had set up earlier by running a similar play to the right side, every bit the same except there was no reverse to Williams. At a recent Trojan Club event Williams talked about it as a play they had always practiced but never called in a game, much less the Rose Bowl. And Williams calls it the play that he remembers the most from his career.
With Sam, you figure he’s always going to command the attention of a defense so a well-timed trick play would have a good chance to work. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Jalen Greene or Velus Jones involved somehow, Greene for his passing ability and Jones for his pure speed.
Is Darnold mania running wild?
Yes, pretty much, and it’s only going to get turned up a notch as the season gets closer. I think when you combine what happened on the field last year (punctuated in the Rose Bowl) and then add the reaction from NFL scouts about his game this off-season, you’ve got a scenario where Sam is front and center of the college football spotlight. I have one Trojan friend whose main concern heading into the year is that they don’t burn Sam out with all the ancillary stuff such as Trojan Club appearances and on-line video diaries. The good news is that if there’s anyone who is going to be unaffected by the hype it is Sam, he’s got a unique calm about the way he handles things (reminds me of Carson Palmer in that way).
Garry, if you were football king for a day would you move the Super Bowl to Saturday? There’s already an extra week anyway.
I had never thought about it before but one benefit would certainly be to allow for a day of post-game recovery before having to go back to work on Monday.
Garry, when will Kevin Bruce ring in with his thoughts about the D-line and Clancy Pendergast? What’s Kevin expecting to see?
Look for an off-season edition of “Defensively Speaking” very soon.
Garry, we’ve been hearing good things about Grant Moore for a few months now. Do you think he will push for serious playing time at ILB? Just how good is he?
He’s definitely pushing for time right now. He was the #2 WLB behind John Houston coming out of spring and it wasn’t a fluke, Grant is a physical and smart player who the coaches have confidence in. We’re definitely going to see Levi Jones (or even Jordan Iosefa) get an opportunity to compete for the spot so we’ll see what happens but no matter what I see Grant at least having a role on special teams, and maybe more in the linebacker rotation.
Can you touch on the guidelines for the summer throwing sessions (number of practices, coach involvement, etc)?
The throwing sessions (also referred to as PRP’s, player-run-practices) are usually held twice a week, and there are no coaches allowed to be present. The coaches do have input in which plays are run each day and which rotations are used. That information is usually passed ahead of time to the quarterbacks who lead the drills.
The throwing sessions/PRP’s are different from the summer workout sessions that are allowed by the NCAA. You’re allowed 8 hours a week for 8 weeks with activities that include weight training, conditioning and film study. The coaches are allowed to be at the conditioning sessions, but they must leave the field before the footballs can be brought out for the throwing sessions.