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WeAreSC Mailbag (8-30)


Freshman predictions?

JT: 13-18 2 TD played only 1st half.

ASB: 3 catches 30+ yards, 100+ kick/punt return yards.

Jay Tufele: 1 Sack, 3 TFL,

JT 14-18, 250 yards, 3 TD’s.

Amon-Ra 5 catches, 70 yards, 80 yards in punt returns.


Hi Garry, this week shouldn’t prove too much of a test for any particular unit, but what are you looking for specifically out of our Oline and Dline in this matchup against what should be a much less-talented roster? Thanks!

The Rebels were bad last year against the run so I would hope to see the o-line create some opportunities for the backs to put up good yardage. And, of course, would love to see them keep JT upright as much as possible in his first start. For the d-line they need to stop the run. It’s what the Rebels do well but I’m anxious to see what they do against guys like Brandon Pili, Marlon Tuipulotu and Jay Tufele, not to mention Cameron Smith and Porter Gustin.


Hi Garry,

Given JT’s widely reported mental prowess in knowing the playbook, how much of a balance do you see the coaching staff taking this week in terms of allowing him to gain good experience with a variety of play calls in a live game, vs holding back for the bigger fish to fry in weeks 2 & 3?

Good question. I think he will be given enough to stretch his wings a little but they won’t show more than they have to with an eye on the next two weeks.

Helen of Troy

Garry…..are we going to win?


Burak Uslu

Hi Garry,

I have one concern regards to the depth chart.

I think Clay Helton is always proving that he can improve. He handled the quarterback competition well. But the depth chart concerns me for to the other position.

A year ago, I read practice reports on fall camp reports that Tyler Vaughns was ready go. Helton did not give Vaughns a chance until he was needed. I like Velus Jones to improve and start. But has he improved really that much to keep Amon Ra St Brown as a second string, or is it a seniority?

I know Amon Ra will play regardless.

To be honest I don’t think it’s either of those reasons. I agree with you that Amon-Ra will play a lot and I think it will be both outside and in the slot. But Amon-Ra has been clear that he wants to play outside and when Michael Pittman was out in camp it was Amon-Ra who took his reps. When Pittman came back Amon-Ra has primarily stayed outside, thus that’s where he is listed on the depth chart and Velus gets the start in the slot. I think we can see this as a fluid situation in terms of who starts where, but I also don’t think it will matter much in terms of how many touches Amon-Ra gets, he will get plenty.


GarryP, should we be up big by half time does jt play the whole game or does fink get some game experience?

If we’re up big I would hope Fink and/or Sears get some kind of playing time, even though it would probably be useful to get JT as many reps as possible.


Garry, this weekend is also our first recruiting weekend. Who is coming in?

I have not heard of any official visitors for this weekend and that’s not a surprise. Helton doesn’t usually like to bring in visitors until later in the year. I would, however, expect a lot of unofficial visitors.


How has Marlon T looked? Compared with this time last year? I can see that he was listed as a co-starter with BP, but how would you compare the two?

I was paying a lot of attention today to the OL/DL drill and thought Marlon looked as good as I’ve seen him in camp. He’s so thick and powerful, and he combines that with good fundamentals. So glad he is back healthy. Brandon is even bigger at roughly 340 and he’s more of a natural athlete, he moves so well. As mentioned earlier, I can’t wait to see them in action because of the impact I think they can have in the middle of the line.


USC coach, past or present, that you could always rely on for a colorful or interesting quote.

Does Chris Carlisle count? He is still arguably my favorite coach/player to sit down with because of the different directions our interviews could go. I’ll add Kennedy Polamalu, who always gave it to you straight. Norm Chow didn’t talk a lot but when he did it was always fun to listen. And Pete Carroll could go either way, he could give you the best stuff at times and then there were other times he could talk for 10 minutes and not tell you a thing. Lane Kiffin was similar in that way, I sat down with Lane after his first year as an assistant and I walked away being incredibly impressed, one of the best interviews I ever had, but then Lane also had another side too when it came to dealing with the media.

Same question but for past and present players.

Ryan Kalil was always good. Stevie Tu’ikolovatu in his one year was pretty entertaining. Thomas Williams. Matt Barkley, Khaled Holmes. Darrell Rideaux, I first interviewed him as a sophomore at Poly and it felt like you were talking with a 30-year old in terms of thoughtful answers. Nickell Robey was a good one.


I’m thinking the biggest area of concern is not the offensive line, IMO it’s the secondary. Can you give an update on the secondary and opine whether this concern has any justification? Thanks Garry.

I think your concern has merit until proven otherwise. We gave up a lot of big plays in the secondary last year and a lot of people are looking to that as a key area. I’m really looking at corner with Greg Johnson and Isaiah Langley, along with the thought of Olaijah Griffin getting in that mix. You figure teams are going to throw at them a lot until they show they can stop it.


There is no question that the OL will set the tone of the season. If they can protect TJ it will be a good season. Who are the players on the OL that can make a difference as opposed to last year?

It’s a lot of the same guys from last year, the biggest change is Toa Lobendahn going from left tackle to center, and Austin Jackson taking over at LT. I think Jackson is a natural left tackle and I’m looking forward to seeing how he does. Otherwise it’s a matter of the guys who were out there last year improving with more experience.


GP-does ARSB rotate between slot and outside?

Yes, I think he does. Helton talked about moving him around to make sure the defense doesn’t automatically know where he’s lining up on each play. His preference is to play outside but with Vaughns and Pittman there it’s another reason why he will be seeing time at both spots.


With Jack Sears being set at the third position in QB depth, do you have a feel about whether he will stay? I see a situation where if JT gets hurt, Jack might leap frog Matt for starting QB.

There are rumors about Jack possibly looking to transfer but those are natural for someone in his position right now. I hope he stays, he’s a good quarterback and I wouldn’t rule out him leapfrogging Fink at some point. A lot of practice observers thought he would have been #2 when the depth chart came out this week.


Original Tommy’s or Chanos?

I’m going to go with Tommy’s. Manny’s (as it was known when I was a student) was definitely in the rotation along with Lucy’s at Pico and Union.


Garry, why put Sears as 3rd string? And how far away is Daniel Imm from being 100%?

The coaches felt Fink was further along in terms of his ability to manage the offense, and they particularly praised his knowledge of the run game. With Daniel, it doesn’t sound like there is any firm estimate right now. It’s such a frustrating situation but at least he’s out there doing various drills these days, hopefully that means he’s getting close.


GP with all of the talk and emphasis in camp on being tougher and more physical going forward. Regardless of the final score, should I hit the panic button if we don’t physically impose our will on the rebels? I feel like ‘SC needs to make a statement and walk the talk, especially with who the following opponent is.

I don’t know that it would be time to hit the panic button if it doesn’t happen but it would certainly be surprising, and not a good sign for the coming weeks.


  1. Are we going to see JT take snaps from under the center this season? 2. With Toa L’s history of injuries do you think the backups (Neilon, Dedich) are ready if (God forbid) their services are needed for a more than a few snaps?

Yes but probably not as many times as you would hope to see. And yes, Neilon in particular is ready, our center depth is very good.


Garry, Last year it was frustrating seeing how often the Trojan offense was outnumbered at the point of attack on running plays. Do you believe USC has made changes schematically and/or in execution sufficient to solve that problem?

We’ve seen some wrinkles in practice and now let’s see how they translate in games. It’s a big reason why Tim Drevno is here as the run game coordinator.



Same question as before applies still- Should I be worried about Toa’s snapping and recurrent pectoral issues? have you seen him snap and is this the cause of the errant snaps? Also what do you make of all the pectoral strains going on? people out of position to make the blocks?

I definitely would rather have Toa out there this week in practice to get as many snaps as possible with the new QB. We hadn’t seen as many errant snaps recently as opposed to early in camp and it would just be speculating to say the pec issue was a factor, that’s not something the coaches or Toa have mentioned. If he’s limited due to the injury I don’t think the coaches would hesitate to go with Neilon for this game.


Barring injury, will this starting OL be the same personnel in our bowl game at the end of the year?

I think so, unless the move of Toa doesn’t work for some reason. You can always move Toa to guard and put in Neilon if needed, but as of right now I’ll assume Toa stays at center.



Will Daniel I be ready to play Week One?

No. He’s yet to take part in a full contact drill, and hasn’t been cleared by the doctors.


Please give us your thoughts on the two DB’s that transferred out.

Who’s our top 5 tacklers this season?

Ykili Ross was well poised entering camp to earn real playing time, primarily in competition for a starting safety spot but he was also taking reps at slot corner. The timing of his injury early in camp caused him to miss a lot of time and on his first day back he had a meltdown over a missed rep, which tells me there was more going on in his mind. Unfortunately it resulted in him leaving the team. With Godfrey, he wasn’t anywhere near playing time as things never really panned out for him coming back from a knee injury suffered in his senior year of HS. I look at Godfrey as the corner we took after running off Thomas Graham as a commit, Graham was a starter last year as a true freshman at Oregon while things didn’t work out here for Godfrey, not a good result for the Trojans.

Top 5 tacklers: Cam Smith, Marvell Tell, John Houston, Porter Gustin, Jordan Iosefa.


Seems like Chuma Edoga missed a lot of the voluntary workouts this summer, and a lot of the fall training camp practices, too. Is he ready to play? Is his play clean enough to avoid all the penalties we’ve seen from him in the past? Is there any indication why he’s missed so much? Is this offensive line better or worse than the ones we saw going into the past two or three seasons? Has this O-line fixed last year’s lack-of-aggression problem?

There’s really only one way to know the answer to these questions and that’s to play the game and see what happens, and I think the answers about an “aggressive” OL will be so important to the success of the offense. For Chuma individually I would think the fact that it’s his senior year would bring that sense of urgency that coaches often talk about.

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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