16 min Read

WeAreSC Mailbag (9-27)


Do former players currently have much access to the program under HCCH? I remember Pete Carroll and even Coach O making a point of involving former players in team meetings and allowing sidelines access. That seemed to go away with NCAA sanctions. I’ve seen quite a few social media posts from former football players who are frustrated with the current regime, and I wonder if some of that frustration is due to the fact they aren’t allowed to contribute to their beloved university by showing their support?

Sure there is access. We see a steady stream of former players stopping by practice, yesterday we saw Thomas Williams (linebacker from the Pete Carroll era who was there for a class he leads for student-athletes about life skills) and John Mazur (QB for the 1981 Marcus Allen Heisman season). On the flip side there are also former players who talk about feeling disconnected from the school but I think that is part of a general feeling that is shared by a plenty of alumni in recent years, football players or not.


Garry, Why all of the strife on the message board? College Football was meant to enjoy. We are 2-2. Losing to Stanford away who remain ranked and Texas at texas who beat TCU the next weekend, the #4 team in the nation. Win out and go to the Rose Bowl…. That works for me.

And if this team goes on another 9-game win streak and ends up in the Rose Bowl like two years ago I think the tone will definitely change as the wins pile up. I think the angst right now is in large part due to the pair of road losses where we simply did not play well, and it continues a pattern under Helton of suffering painful losses in higher profile games against teams we normally measure ourselves against. It’s nice to beat the Washington States and Oregon States of the world but we’re not used to these kind of results against peers such as Texas, Ohio State and Alabama, not to mention Stanford, and it’s become a real issue for Helton. But to your point, you would have liked the atmosphere in the Coliseum last Friday, no matter how much strife may have been present on the boards the crowd was into the game in support of the Trojans.

Burak Uslu

Hi Garry,

My question is based on USC wide receivers success in the national football league. I am watching highlights reels of Juju Smith-Schuster catching wide open catches for touchdowns. I think there is no easy solution to get wide receivers open. Kiffin tried bubbles screens, Sark pushed more on a pass happy, screen mixed offence. Clay is trying to open up defences with deep balls, but we seem to struggle with wide receivers getting open. Pretty much all of our wide receivers need to catch contest balls. What are we doing wrong?

I think the WSU game was a good example of what you’re saying because a lot of our success came on contested balls where our receivers made the play. J.T. Daniels says he has a lot of confidence right now to throw it up there and the receiver will either make the play or knock the ball down, and I think we will definitely benefit our share of plays because of how well Daniels throws the deep ball. But one thing that could definitely help is to use the middle of the field more. Not having Daniel Imatorbhebhe hurts in this area because of how well he understands spacing. The other tight ends just haven’t had the same success working the middle that we saw from Daniel.


Garry, do you think the offense will ever incorporate the regular use of a huddle?’ Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like the players run back to a general position and look to the sidelines, then a presnap and another sideline check.??. Wouldn’t having a huddle every down give players a chance to communicate and strategize amongst themselves. Like JT letting one of the receivers know he’s going to throw it early to him so he ready, or whatever. It could also lead to more accountability and unity down by down, and the “player” leaders of the offense can have more influence each play. So many times it seems like there are eleven individuals running their own assignments, rather than eleven teammates executing a common goal in the form of a play……. Doesn’t pre lining up and then setting the formation from the sideline give the defense time to adjust? I mean it’s not like our offense is out scheming anybody,given what seems to be our limited, unimaginative playbook.

This is a real interesting debate. I like the huddle, I like the ability for a quarterback (the leader of the offense) to look the other players in the eye and to make sure there is communication when there needs to be (4th down on the goal line vs Texas). The argument in favor of not huddling is to give the offensive coordinator a chance to see how the defense is lined up and to make his call from there. I’ve been surprised at some of the people who like the current system, we did a podcast a few years ago where Mike Lamb and Jeremy Hogue, two former USC offensive linemen, both said they like the current system because of that advantage it gives the play caller and they didn’t think you give up too much to go without a huddle.


Hey Garry.

We’ve now played 4 games. Who do you think will use a red-shirt this year?

Helton wouldn’t give any indication last night after practice of which players are headed for a redshirt but here’s my guesses: Markese Stepp, Justin Dedich, Liam Dougglass, Trevor Trout, Abdul Malik McClain, Eli’jah Winston, Solomon Tuliaupupu, Chase Williams.


Stanford frequently uses extra offensive linemen in certain sets. USC obviously has started to use a backup linemen at FB in the “I.” Have we seen any looks in practice where they have put an additional linemen in at tight end or H back? It’s no secret that the TE’s have struggled with their blocking assignments this year. Putting somebody like Clayton Bradley at TE in that set might also be a good step.

Also, do you think Stephen Carr’s injuries have slowed him down a little? He can still play obviously, but I’m wondering if this is a situation where he’s still progressing and won’t be completely back until later in the year or even next year. I seem to recall Justin Davis having a situation like that a few years ago, where he had returned but he wasn’t yet the runner that he had been before the injury or would become again the following year.

We’ve seen Erik Krommenhoek used in similar ways to how Rhett Ellison was moved around as a senior to fill an H-back/FB type of role.

I do think Carr has been progressing back in from his injury but I also think he’s ready now to start seeing his touches increase as he’s shown his big play ability is back in game action.


I have a couple questions (sorry a bit long). There has been a lot of discussion of the bad performances under Clay (Bama 2016, Stanford 2016, ND 2017, Ohio St 2017, Stanford 2018 and Texas 2018 come immediately to mind) – there is a general consensus that the biggest contributor to these losses was a lack of physicality and a commitment to that style of play in practice and play calling.

Question 1 – what made the good games under Clay “Good”
I am curious about the other end of the spectrum as well – the good performances under Clay (Washington 2016, ND 2016, Rose Bowl v Penn St, Stanford 2017 – both games but especially game 1, ucla 2016). What if anything made these games different? I don’t think it can be entirely attributable to Sam/RJ II/Adoree/JuJu without at least giving some nod to either practice approach or coaching – especially since these games were not of the same general tone (e.g. Rose Bowl was a shootout but Washington was a largely defensive game). Do you feel these games either had a different tone in how practice was run? Do you feel that the game plans were better prepared?

I thought the best game of “Trojan football” out of all those games was the first Stanford game last year, and it’s largely a game that I can’t explain because it doesn’t fit with so much of what we’ve seen since. We ran the ball beautifully, and threw it as well, we took the fight to them for four quarters, we played sound defense, I could go on and on. Helton said after the game that we played to our standard that night, and I agreed. The Washington game the year before was also beautiful because nobody expected us to smack them in the mouth, and that’s exactly what we did. So at least for those two games there was a common physical thread that was found but you didn’t see it coming necessarily in practice. I don’t include the Penn State Rose Bowl because they had scored 7 straight touchdowns, right up until the point where a Cameron Smith tackle on the QB at the end of the third resulted in Cam being tossed and the Penn State QB not being the same the rest of the game, and it gave the Trojans the opening they needed to tie and eventually win the game. As much as I thoroughly enjoyed the outcome of the game, I can’t put it as a classic physical Trojan performance.

Question 2 – Likely stability of Clay for 2019 and what could happen (staff changes)
I may have missed it if someone has posed this point before. While I hope Clay runs the table and develops a stronger more physical team – I am not naive to the possibility that it goes poorly. However, while many are already talking about a new coach – one thing I don’t think has been mentioned is that we have an Interim President (Wanda Austin) who has no interest in being a full time solution. We have a Board of Trustees that is emphasizing that it is likely that a new President will not be selected until probably early 2019. While Swann as the AD has the responsibility to make the decision about our HC – I highly doubt he would like to make this choice without at least running it by a permanent President. Thus, I figure that he is highly UNLIKELY to remove Clay as that would take place right around National Signing Day or later. This brings me to my question about staffing. What if any changes do you see happening? My guess is that that is based on the final record of the team – what are your thoughts?:
A. Win the P12 (south plus CCG) – Clay likely gets to control if any changes are made – I am guessing that Callaway moves one for Drevno. I am seriously hoping that Ivan Lewis would be in serious question regardless of record – see what Stanford is doing comparatively with strength and conditioning.
B. Win between 7-9 games and not P12 – Swann asks for some fundamental changes in the areas that he deems are lacking. Likely O-line, Strength, TEs, DBs, play calling
C. Win 6 or less – Swann demands removal of at least the OC and most of the Offensive Staff as well as a plan on how Clay would address the performance.
What are your opinions on what may happen based on these outcomes in our schedule?

I can see why any of those scenarios would be considered but we have no idea what the thought process is for Swann. He simply hasn’t made any decisions like this where we can judge how he does things.


What have you seen from big Marlon Tuipulotu? I haven’t seen him destroy O-Lineman as I expected so far into the season. Did his injury and rehab possibly slow his game a bit? It be nice to get an interview with him to see how he feels physically.

It wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case since a back issue for a big guy like that is something that could certainly linger. I watch Marlon right now and the effort is certainly there, hopefully it is a situation where he’s still working his way back and his best football is still ahead of him this year.



1. What do you believe is required from Helton to get the team playing consistently like the USC football we have come to love and expect?

2. What do you think Lynn Swann needs to do to get the football program back to being competitive with the “elite” programs?

For both questions, please be brutally honest. We can take it, and I think we need to hear it.

1. I’ve said this before and still think it’s true that the biggest disconnect between what Helton has said he wanted to do and what he’s done is the type of physical foundation he wanted for the program. He talked about the blue collar tradition of USC, not flashy Hollywood, but power running football. So far, that hasn’t been the foundation we’ve seen, and I think that would go a long way toward playing the kind of traditional USC football we’ve seen so much in the past. I also think that kind of overall commitment for the program would benefit the defense, particularly in practice to prepare for that brand of football in games.

2. If there’s one thing we know it’s that Swann has heard multiple complaints from his Trojan football player peers who aren’t pleased with the erosion of the foundation of physical football that marked this program for so many years. I have no idea how Lynn would plan to go about making any changes but they most likely would start with the coaching staff, and there are a lot of different ways that could go (outlined above by FightOn1992). As noted above, unfortunately we just don’t know how Lynn operates in these situations because we’ve yet to see it.


Talofa my brotha! First and foremost I appreciate all that you do.
Was I dreaming or did we actually see our offense line up in the “I” formation with a fullback? I almost collapsed when I saw it. My question to you is this:

1.Who implemented that formation in last week?
2. Is Tee still calling 100% of the offensive plays or have some of those responsibilities been shared with both Clay and Drevno?

Thanks again Garry.

P.S. how bout those Monarchs?

Talofa Moe! Big win for the Monarchs, happy for Rollo and the boys. And yes, you did see a fullback in the I formation, and it worked! I really hope it’s something we see continue, not just because it’s vintage SC football but because of the fact that it works. I really think we would see a different energy with the run game if we use it more. As for the play calling, it’s not just Tee right now, Clay has been a part of the process in recent games.


I was excited about that power I set up also. Garry, will we see it more than once or twice against Arizona? Will we generally see a “commitment to run the football” actually occur this week?

I sure hope we see it on more than a limited basis. A power I, an offensive lineman moonlighting as a fullback, and a goal line back following behind with a head of steam. That’s some good Trojan football in my book.

Gentlemen we’re behind

Hi Garry,

Any news on Ced? Might he be a go this week?

Thanks for all the great content. Fight On!

Ced was able to practice this week so he should be available.



What is your impression on Vavae Malepeai running style and where does he fit in this offense going forward?

I love his game. He is called a short yardage back at times by Helton but I think he’s more than that, he’s a good one-cut-and-go runner, a very good receiver and he’s a savvy x’s and o’s guy according to Drevno. After seeing the last game I would have no problem with a 2-man rotation of Carr and Vavae if Ware is not ready. If all 3 of them are part of the rotation I would hope to see more carries overall because all 3 can handle more of the load.


Do you have any idea when Solo will be back? I thought he’d only be out part of fall camp but now it’s making me wonder if his injury was worse than expected.

Helton gave an update a couple weeks back and it didn’t sound like anything was pending on a Solo return to practice. We haven’t seen him take part in any drills or activities, but the new redshirt rule could allow him to take part in some action at the end of the year with burning his redshirt, we just don’t know if that will happen or not.

Fertig to Sherman

I’ve read that Coach Del Rio has been at USC, and working in some capacity. True? If so, what is his role?

Also, any sense of what the boosters think of how the season is going?

I have not heard of anything like that on Del Rio. As for the boosters, I think you can get a feel by reading the message boards since plenty of people on the boards are boosters. The reality is that there’s a lot of legitimate questions out there, especially when you combine it with other university related issues such as the Coliseum renovation, pending gynecologist lawsuits, lack of a full-time president, etc.


GarryP- the ucla game when clay was still an interim coach and we ran it like 12 plays in a row and scored on a play action pass taking like 6-7 minutes off the clock in the 4th quarter.

I thought that was the offense clay wanted and would be our identity .

What happened to that and why did clay change?

I remember the drive well (see photo above) and the spoken goal from Helton about that being the identity he wanted for the USC offense. As to why it hasn’t happened, that would be a question for Clay but I think it’s the biggest disconnect we’ve seen from his tenure.

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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