9 min Read

WeAreSC mailbag (9-15 edition)

by Garry Paskwietz

In this week’s edition of the mailbag there are plenty of questions about the identity of the Trojans offense, and how that will impact the game on Saturday against Stanford.


With Rogers back to the OL, do we expect more from Daniel on the DL

Jacob took some reps with the 2’s this week at nose tackle so it’s certainly possible he will see some time in the rotation but I don’t think it will be much because Clancy just doesn’t rotate in a lot of guys. There will be times against Stanford when you need more bulk on the line but the Cardinal are also spreading things out more this year so there will be a lot of nickel looks with only two interior d-linemen.


Should jack Jones be getting more playing time ahead of biggie?

I’m not ready to say that yet.


Garry, do you see the tight ends being used in the middle of field at some point?

I hope so. I think one of the things we saw last week was how the short passing game can be used as part of the “ball control” offense that Clay Helton wants to run, and part of that can obviously be the tight ends patrolling the middle of the field. It’s something I think could work well with the type of tight ends we have and it would also be a nice safer throw for Browne to work with.


Regarding DR’s idea to have Adoree spy McCaffrey, do you think this could actually work? Seems like a tall order to shadow someone coming out of the backfield and fight through traffic to make a play, especially if the offense knows you’re the designated spy.

The biggest benefit I would see is the possibility of preventing McCaffrey from turning a short gain into a long one. He’s going to get his share of four to five yards gains, but too many times last year we saw him separate from the closest defender with his underrated speed. Adoree’ is the best option the Trojan defense would have to stay with him and get him to the ground as quickly as possible before those explosive plays are made. But, as you say, it remains to be seen if it would work because the Stanford coaches would surely have an adjustment ready.


What is the latest on Noah Jefferson physical condition?

He didn’t practice this week and it doesn’t sound like he will play, according to Helton.


What impact has the Masina/Hill situation had on the players?

I don’t get the sense it’s had much at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s something the leaders of the team have addressed behind closed doors, and so far the players are saying the right things to the media about it. But this is a team that has been through a lot of drama in recent years so they know how to deal with it as well as anybody.


Do you think K. Rodgers moving back to OL is the right move?

The main thing it tells me is that the coaches aren’t comfortable yet with Cole Smith as the #2 center option. And if that’s the case, you have to move Rodgers back because he is more valuable as a dependable center than he is as a reserve defensive lineman. There is part of me that was liking that presence of Khaliel on the d-line and I wanted to see where he could go with it but we always knew moving back to offense was a possibility if the situation warranted it.


I don’t want to get overly dramatic, but what is the possibility that this upcoming Stanford game defines this team, this season, and potentially the fate of this coaching staff? Do you think this game has those kind of implications, especially when the time comes to look back on 2016 season?

I don’t think it’s being overly dramatic. It might take something extreme for it to impact the fate of the staff but it certainly could send things in either direction. And as far as this team and this season are concerned, I think you are absolutely right about the potential implications.


Garry, what is your opinion on the return to being more physical and moving the ball on the ground while with an experienced and somewhat fairly deep OL? I just don’t see the commitment to this return.

I said last week in the mailbag that I think it’s the biggest disconnect between what Clay Helton said he wanted to do and what we’ve actually seen. Mike Lamb also said something similar in the podcast yesterday (17:25 mark) so it tells you people are seeing the same thing. But Jeremy Hogue followed that up by talking about how the offense is evolving to what the Trojans have, and there is merit to that thought too. I’m just one of those who was (and still am) looking forward to a time when the Trojans return to that physical, downhill running style of offense.


Stanford had 8 sacks against K State (yikes!) USC gave up 8 TFL against Bama and another 9 TFL against Utah State. Say what you will, but I don’t consider that true improvement. We also gave up 8 TFL against Stanford in last year’s Pac12 championship. Are we being blind optimists thinking our OL won’t get steamrolled this Saturday?

I don’t see blind optimism, I think everybody has the USC OL vs Stanford front as one of the key match-ups of the game, and there is a lot of realism about the fact that it will be a battle (the same can be said of the SC d-line against the Stanford o-line).


Hi Garry, what do you know about their QB. High school, recruiting, strengths, weaknesses, etc.

Ryan Burns was a top-5 national QB coming out of Virginia, with a classic 6-5, 220 pocket passer frame, but he can run a little too. He’s waited behind a four-year starter in Kevin Hogan and beat out Keller Chryst (who I thought would win the job) and showed good efficiency in the opening game win over Kansas State by going 14-18. He had a few struggles though, as would be expected in his first start, and I think Clancy is going to do all he can with pressures to rattle Burns as much as possible.


Garry, Do you guys agree with me that we are trying to play some sort of weird hybrid shotgun based Offense using Pro-style drop-back Quarterbacks? It looks like they were doing better in the plays they ran from under-center, and I know that is the only way to have a power running game. I’d like to see more pro-set or I-formation and getting a fullback or even two tailbacks or an h-back involved to help the run game, how about you guys?

Yes, I do get the sense that we haven’t really found the identity yet of this offense so we’re kind of stuck in a hybrid trying to figure it out. We alluded to the comments from Jeremy Hogue in the podcast, where he talked about how Helton and his coaches are working with what they have to find the right mix, and it may not be the downhill power run game that many thought was coming. Hogue is on record as saying that’s the style he would want to see with this group, but he says it may be a case where the short passing game ends up acting basically as an extension of the run game.

Mark from Newport

Gary, I believe it is unfair to the defense and the team more generally to sugarcoat the fact that our offense, with all the “playmakers”, just are not performing well under Helton and Tee Martin. You can compare that to how the defense, even though we lost to Alabama, showed significant signs of improvement from last year. I am no expert, but it appears plain to see what a really good coach can do (in terms of producing significant improvement in the team’s play, e.g., Clancy Pendergast). I hear you, and Jeremy and Mike to a degree, commenting on the fact that “we will see how our defense contains” #5 at Stanford, but isn’t it true that a large factor is how many times our defense comes on the field after Helton/Martin go 3 and out? IMHO, our defense, no matter how good they are, cannot be put in the position to continue to go time and again (after our offense continues to sputter). Can you please address whether the offensive side of the ball, including anemic play calling, is getting the appropriate level of scrutiny? If so, by whom? Can you also address whether, in your opinion, the coaching staff realizes their shortcomings, but also realizes that to bring someone really good in, that decreases their respective job security?

I think we’re in basic agreement on what you’re saying and this is a huge game for Helton and Tee in that regard. If they bring a plan that has good ball control and crispness it would go a long way not only for the win but for the fan’s belief in Helton. If there are struggles, the scrutiny would definitely increase. 

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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