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WeAreSC mailbag (6-23 edition)

by Garry Paskwietz

In this week’s edition of the mailbag we talk status of the recruiting class, the Alabama game, competition for starting spots and more.


I know most of us agreed to wait awhile on recruiting, but it seems apparent that SC is not doing as well as we’re used to. For nearly 15 years, SC has been a dominant power in recruiting. This year, it doesn’t seem that way so far. And yet, the staff closed marvelously last year, and the UClowns have only three commits so far. Garry, as an insider, any kind of feelings you have in a general sense that you can share would be greatly appreciated. Specifics are of course welcome too! Thanks.

As you noted, the way this staff closed last year was one of the more impressive signing day performances I’ve ever seen from a coaching staff and it bought them a lot of benefit of the doubt from me for this class. It’s not like things are going poorly, sitting at #19 in the class rankings with 9 current commits, and plenty of talent left on the wish list to think that ranking can improve dramatically. If I were to share any thoughts about why I think that will happen it is the way I’m seeing Helton and his staff being received this spring by coaches and recruits on the camp circuit, the relationships are very good and now it’s just a matter of making sure they are identifying the right guys. I also think it’s important to note how much work has been done in this camp season in terms of underclassmen, if you check the majority of offers in recent weeks they have been to rising juniors and sophomores. That tells me there is a lot of evaluation being done.


Hi Garry, if we were listening in on the Alabama defensive coaches planning for USC, do you think we would hear that their plan is to put extra people in the box to shut down SC’s running game, putting the game on the shoulders of a new, inexperienced QB and forcing him to win it?

That would certainly be my plan if I was them. On paper, the strength of the USC offense in the opener should be some good tailbacks running behind a veteran offensive line, so I’m guessing the Tide will look to force the inexperienced quarterback into some tough situations.


The first play of the Bama game may tell us a lot of what kind of coaching staff we have, what do you think is called?

Power run off the right side with Justin Davis following Zach Banner and Viane Talamaivao.


Who on O & D look to have put in the work with the S & C staff?

I’ll throw out a few names – Tyler Petite, Aca’Cedric Ware, Isaac Whitney, Cole Smith, Porter Gustin, Malik Dorton and Uchenna Nwosu.


Looks like Oaks Christian HS is becoming a pipeline to USC. Who is next in line target @ Oaks?

I would say 2019 WR Mycah Pittman, the younger brother of Michael. He is probably more of a slot receiver at 6-0, 185 with really good speed. And, of course, the Trojans already have commitments from a pair of 2018 Lions in Matt Corrall and Bo Calvert.


Garry- did linemen targets wyatt davis, vera tucker, banivalu, rogers, tufele , Filiaga, show at RSC ? if not, can we still consider their interest in USC very serious as this was not a hard trip?

No, we did not see any of the listed names on the first day of the camp (not sure who might be showing up today). As far as what that might mean to their interest, I wouldn’t read too much into it one way or the other. Here are some west coast players who didn’t make the trip to Rising Stars last year; Michael Pittman, Connor Murphy, Trevon Sidney, Oluwole Betiku and Jackie Jones. All ended up signing with the Trojans.

Old Trojan 93

Garry, what do you think of Rogers to the D-line? He seems to have a nasty streak. Why not make use of it?

I think there is merit to taking a look, primarily if the coaches are comfortable with the depth chart at center, which is as good as it’s been in years. Helton has said he could take a look at multiple different offensive linemen flipping over and so far we’ve only seen Chuma Edoga do it for the first week, so it’s entirely possible Rodgers could be one of the others to get a look.


Outside of Austin Jackson at the Rising Star camp, what Offensive Lineman catches your attention?

Alex Leatherwood.


So Garry this is the first real year of the first real competition for positions all across the roster. Would you have ever felt that Damian Mama could actually be challenged for a starting position on the offensive line? Or even more competitive would it be possible that Sam Darnold may be able to beat out Max Browne for starting QB? There is maybe a benefit to a new coaching staff coming in and saying honestly that every position is up for grabs. It is rare however that it is really true. How much of this year’s competition is actually real?

You bring up two really good examples of why the competition aspect is real. At left guard, it would not have been a surprise to see Mama stay in the starting role but Brown has earned the opportunity with his play. Even going back to last season when Chris started getting spot time, and then into the spring, you heard former offensive linemen like Jeremy Hogue and Mike Lamb talk on our podcasts about how much they liked his play. And when a new OL coach came in, Brown was ready to make this kind of legitimate challenge. But, of course, the quarterback competition to me is the best example of Helton living up to his word of preaching competition. It would have been very easy just to name Max Browne at the end of spring, and it would not have been a questionable move because Max is ready. But Sam showed enough in spring to close the gap and I can 100% understand why Helton is waiting to make a decision, and it tells me a lot that he made that tough call.


Have you seen any return work done at these PRPs? I’m curious to what Baxter installed in the spring to help us improve.

No, not in summer. And we didn’t see much in spring either. Baxter is unique that way in that we just don’t see a lot of full scale return or kick drills, everything is broken down into segments of special teams and that’s where the focus is. For instance, with a placekick drill, he may only use one half of the line, rather than a full line. In a return drill, it may be just a single player sprinting back as if the ball was kicked, and then heading upfield to prepare to block an oncoming would-be tackler.

Surf On

– What do you think the rotation at safety will be? 1’s: Hawkins-Tell, 2’s: Plattenburg-McQuay, 3’s: Lopes, Pollard, TBD due to injury: Ross, Cook

– Who starts at ILB- Cam Smith and _____? Michael Hutchings or Quinton Powell, with Osa Masina as my darkhorse candidate.

– Who starts- Brown or Mama? Brown

– Is there a player that we’ve forgotten about that has been on campus for a while and might explode this year? I don’t know if Hutchings or Powell will explode but the fact that either could end up being a starter is a pleasant development. And I think Ajene Harris plays a significant role in the corner rotation. On offense, I don’t know how much time Nico Falah will get with such a veteran line but he’s ready to be a contributor.

Garry Paskwietz
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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