8 min Read

WeAreSC Mailbag (6-14 edition)


With the player run practices do the players update the coaches on how they went or who did great, who didn’t do so well?

Yes, there is feedback from the veteran players to the coaches of how things go, it’s pretty informal but they can get a sense of what’s going on.


What say you about the defense? What needs to happen for it to be #1 in the conference?

I think there are a few keys to whatever kind of jump the defense can make. 1) the veteran presence of guys like Cam Smith, Porter Gustin, Iman Marshall, Marvel Tell and Ajene Harris. That’s a real solid group of seniors who have been in Clancy’s system for three years now. 2) the fact that there are also plenty of others who have been in the system, which should lead to more of a rotation, guys like Langley, Lockett, Houston, Rector, Dorton, not to mention some talented underclassmen, and finally 3) we will be as strong at the interior point of attack as we’ve been in a long time with the trio of Pili, Marlon and Tufele leading the way from the nose tackle spot. You can’t underestimate the impact of controlling the middle of the line and the Trojans should be strong there this year.


Thinking about the offense’s identity in 2018. I understand this is somewhat dependent on who wins the QB job, but then again, whoever wins it is a first time starter w/zero in game “meaningful” inexperience. Factor in a USC Defense that should keep the score in check, and all signs point to a ball control offense that relies on the big uglies upfront and some pounding RB’s, and a QB that manages the game, I sense scores of 21-10 or 17-3. What are you thoughts on this?

I agree. It certainly seems like that would be the recipe for the offense, and Helton talked about that in spring ball, particularly on the day when the offense had their best scrimmage while using that formula. I know a lot of fans are taking a “wait-and-see” approach on what the offensive scheme will be and I completely understand.


Is there any indication whatsoever coming from coach Helton that he is committed to running hard-nosed, fast practices? It might be too early to know but he’s been hesitant in the past for reasons both real and perceived. He’s got to know that we have a full cupboard and anything less than intense practices will be a disservice to the team. If he plans on going soft again then we might as well call it a mediocre season right now. It’s obvious to everyone but I haven’t read anything leading us to believe that he’s committed to that belief.

I don’t know what level we’re going to see. Helton talked at the beginning of spring about how it was going to be a “hard” spring but I’m not sure we saw that at the level many would have hoped, and I think this is going to be a critical area to watch for those looking for a dramatic change. To use one example, teams are limited in how many days they can scrimmage but I would love to see those scrimmage days be extended and used as much as allowed. In spring they were allowed three scrimmages but the first two were limited in the number of live plays while the third was longer and I thought it gave the offense a chance to get into more of a rhythm. That’s going to be especially important with an inexperienced QB to get as much “live bullet” work, as Helton likes to call it, before the actual season starts, and to work on run game timing, etc.


What’s the word on Jay Toia? What’s the outlook for him? What do you like, what unanswered question are there?

We’re talking about a guy who sure seems to fit the profile we have at nose tackle these days of large Polynesian guys who can move. A guy who is 325 pounds going into his sophomore year is a pretty good place to start and I understand the offer. What we don’t know is where his development will go over the next three years because interior defensive linemen are usually one of the more difficult positions to project, but I’ll take my chances with this one.


Garry, How’s the intensity and competitive spirit at the PRPs?

It’s been a mixed bag. We’ve seen two sessions so far, the one last Friday was pretty good to get things going, the one on Tuesday was a little more subdued with a lot of guys missing.


Garry… Has the coaching staff cooled on the recruitment of DT Matthew Pola-Mao? I haven’t seen or heard any reports on him lately. He was thought to be a strong SC lean with his brother Isaiah already on the team.

I haven’t heard of any cooling, I just don’t think we’ve heard much from Matthew this spring regarding any schools or camps. Remember it was the same way with Isaiah during the recruiting process, he wasn’t as high-profile as some of the other guys and most people thought he was probably headed elsewhere, right up until late in the process when things got firmed up and he committed to the Trojans.


With TJ possibly looking like the real thing and Sears and Fink improving the thing that will
definitely hold USC back is the state of the OL. What is the current state of the OL and is there
possibility for improvement?

The state of the OL is that everyone is healthy and hopefully stays that way until camp because that’s when we start to see where things are really at. How does Toa transition to center? It’s always been thought to be a good position for him but we don’t really know. Is Austin Jackson ready for the full-time LT role? He passes the eyeball test, now we need to see it on the field. Can Chuma Edoga cut down on the penalties and become a senior leader? And what kind of role will the group be asked to play within the offensive scheme. These and so many more questions on the line make it one of the most important units to determine the success of the team, and we just won’t know where things are at until they are back on the field.


In the spring game interview, it looked like Porter Gustin gained even more muscle… if that’s humanly possible. Who on the current team or past USC teams rank up there with Porter as weight room fanatics and as the strongest Trojans?

Haha, so true, Porter looks better than ever and that’s saying something. Brian Cushing is a guy who will always stand out to me in the intensity department in the weight room, he was just different. Sed Ellis, Bernard Riley, both of them were big time and so strong.


Garry do you have any updates on the players not present in the PRP so far. IMATORBHEBHE, STEWERT, BETIKU, and how is the CARR running so far. Gotta be feelin good about the backpack though!

I wish I had a Daniel Imaatorbhebhe update but unfortunately we don’t. We haven’t been able to interview the players since spring and won’t be able to do it again until July, so if a guy is out of action right now it’s not as easy to get those updates. I was glad to see Carr at the first PRP though, a good sign of progress being made on his end.


Hi Gary, I’ve been wondering what the PRP practice schedule is, how many days, times, etc?
Thanks for your time.

There is no set schedule and they can often change from week to week. There are usually two per week, either in the morning after the team conditioning, or later in the afternoon.


Hi Gary, Norm Chow sitting behind home plate at tonights Dodger game. Any chance there is room on staff to bring him on as a consultant the way Saban did with Sark? If so, any chance Coach Helton would consider such a move?

And he stayed for the whole extra-inning game. Love Norm. There is certainly the possibility of bringing him on board as a consultant the way Saban did with Sark, and the way USC had Bryan Ellis in that role last year before making him QB coach this year, but I’ve never heard any indication that Clay has considered it or would consider it. Count me as one who thinks it would a benefit to have Chow involved with the program in some form, I’ve never seen a better play caller, or someone who set up plays for the future, better than Chow. You would think there could be a way to help pass his knowledge along.

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.

More Articles By Garry