6 min Read

WeAreSC mailbag (8-4 edition)

by Garry Paskwietz

As the Trojans prepare to open fall camp, the mailbag this week discusses position battles, Jabari Ruffin, Adoree’s chances at the Heisman, and thoughts on Cameron Smith

Old Trojan 93

Which match-up favors USC most: our receivers against ‘Bama’s secondary or our secondary against ‘Bama’s receivers? Who will cover TE Howard?

Of those two match-ups I will say the Trojan receivers against the Alabama secondary is the more favorable. It would be a great way for JuJu Smith-Schuster to show he is the top receiver in the nation by having a big game against talented Tide corner Marlon Humphrey, and I think overall the Trojan passing game has enough sophistication to have some success. The flip side match-up of Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart against Adoree’ Jackson and Biggie Marshall could be as competitive as it gets. My initial thought on covering Howard would be Marvell Tell.


Which groups performance will quell the jitterbugs?

Defensive line and/or inside linebacker. Both of those spots have issues worth watching (inexperience on DL, Cameron Smith absence at LB) and some positive news from fall camp would definitely be welcome.


With the position battles going on, who would you want to win such battles/spots:

Here’s who I think will win each competition

QB – Max Browne

#2 WR – Darreus Rogers

LG – Chris Brown

DT (assuming R.Green is one) – Malik Dorton or Stevie Tu’ikolovatu

NT – Noah Jefferson

ILB (assuming C.Smith is one) – Michael Hutchings for now

OLB (assuming P.Gustin is one) – Uchenna Nwosu

Nickel CB – Ajene Harris

FS – Chris Hawkins

SS – Marvell Tell


How is Jabari Ruffin progressing? Could he fill in at ILB until Cameron Smith is healthy? Since we are fairly deep at offensive line, do you think we will use a “Stanford” type set with extra line-men to really pound the football and wear down defenses? Maybe even against Bama?

We haven’t seen any sign of Jabari getting reps at ILB, so far he’s been a reserve at the OLB spot behind Porter Gustin. I wouldn’t rule out those kind of extra linemen sets, but I also think there will be a lot of multiple tight end sets now that the TE spot has some depth and talent at the position.


Can Adoree win a Heisman playing mainly CB? Has there ever been a Heisman CB winner?

Probably not. Only one primarily defensive player (Charles Woodson) has ever won the award, he was a corner who also produced on special teams and receiver. Adoree’ has said he wants to focus on defense this year, although the door was left open for some kind of role on offense and special teams. My guess is a more realistic personal award goal for Adoree’ would be the Thorpe Award, given to the top DB in the nation.


What defensive position group keeps you up most at night — defensive end/tackle or middle linebacker? Do you think tough teams (Ala, Stan, ND) will be able to run with ease through the middle of our defense? Edit: I am assuming Smith will not be 100% and ready to play.

Right now I would lean more to ILB but not by a wide margin. What probably puts ILB ahead of the DL is the thought of Cameron Smith either not being available for teams like Alabama and Stanford, or, as you allude to, not being at 100% as he comes back from a knee injury. I just think he’s that important to the front seven group.


I had an unsettling thought about the defense this morning – it appears to me that the entire defense is inexperienced and unproven, not just the d-line. I think Green is the only d-lineman who has shown much so far, and he should be very good if he stays healthy. LB, we have Gustin and Nwosu on the outside (limited experience and production so far) and on the inside, we have who-knows-what besides Cam, whose health and availability are in question. The safeties have experience but they have not been particularly good, IMO. So that leaves Adoree and Marshall, who should be great if Marshall can cut down on the PI’s, as the obvious strength of the team.

On paper at least, this is not the 1985 Chicago Bears. Do you feel that, given Clancy’s presence that the defense can at least be adequate to begin with, and can they progress to be pretty good by the end of the season? And who are a few of the defenders you feel could possibly be All-Pac 12 this year? Thanks.

The answer about Clancy’s presence is an emphatic yes. In fact, it’s one of the things I’m most optimistic about for the coming season (and beyond). I saw what he did for that 2013 defense, and he did it primarily with players who had been a part of one of the worst statistical defenses in USC history the year before under Monte Kiffin.

As for the defensive players who I could see as All-Pac-12, I will say Rasheem Green, Porter Gustin, Cameron Smith, Adoree’ Jackson, Iman Marshall and Marvell Tell.

Helen of Troy

Will Cam Smith be ready for the season? If not, who will be starting?

I don’t know if there is a bigger question mark heading into camp HOT. We didn’t see Cameron do any of the throwing session work in the player-run-practices so there was no way to judge where he’s at in his rehab. He looked fine walking around when he came to watch the sessions but that obviously doesn’t tell much. In his place this summer we’ve seen Michael Hutchings and Quinton Powell take the majority of snaps with the first team but we’ve also seen Olajuwon Tucker and Osa Masina in there at various times too. I don’t think we’ve seen any of those guys separate themselves yet to say they are clearly the starter.

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