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WeAreSC Mailbag (9-28)

Helen of Troy


Are we going to win?



Would like to get a sense for Jay Tufele and Brandon Pili. Are they getting reps or are they hurt? We need the young guys to step up on the dline.

They are both out there in practice, and a lot of time they are lined up next to each other on service team. It wouldn’t be a complete surprise to see them put in a game (I would say Pili is the more likely of the two) but right now they are each headed for a redshirt.



OL line play is a current topic of conversation so I’m curious have you run into Hudson Houck? He’s in his 70’s now and living in Los Angeles I believe. Boy would that be a treat if he was available for an interview. He’s by far my favorite position coach of all time. I would love to hear his take on USC’s current line.

I haven’t seen Hudson around campus in a while. I saw a photo of him as part of a John Robinson birthday party at El Cholo a year or two back but that was about it. I agree on his status as a coach, he was a good one.


Does Tony give NCAA the opening they need to sanction football again?

I think it’s way too early to know where this is all going. I saw one report where the Auburn athletic department said they were told the investigation was focused on the one assistant coach (Chuck Person) and there was no indication of any other school involvement. Hopefully that applies to USC as well but with the way we’ve been treated by the NCAA on the whole issue you just never know what they might do.


Is our QB ever going to take a snap under center? Short yardage and play action seem to work better when the quarterback is under center.

I’m with you on that thought but it’s just not something we see a lot of these days. Former USC quarterback John Mazur was at practice recently talking about it, and his thoughts mirrored yours, but he also cautioned how hard it is to do it if you haven’t committed to working on it in practice.


After four games, who are your surprise players of the season thus far?

Christian Rector and Josh Fatu have both played well the past couple games, and that’s been a pleasant surprise that could really help the defense. Seeing Steven Mitchell come back healthy and able to contribute the way he has, it’s been good to see, and I’ll take what Tyler Petite has given with the absence of Daniel Imatorbhebhe. And you’re always surprised to see a freshman come in the way Stephen Carr has, although we certainly knew he was going to be a good one.


Assuming WSU stacks the box (which now seems the strategy du jour for opponents moving forward), how would you counter that if you were Tee?

Helton has said many times in the last week that we need to hit some downfield passes in order to stop teams from loading the box. The longest completion against Cal was 19 yards and that’s not going to put any fear into opposing defensive coordinators to loosen things up. I also think some misdirection and counters, perhaps a reverse, could be mixed in. Of course, a full complement of running backs and solid blocking by the OL should help too.


During the Stanford game, the announcers went on and on about how good the left side of the SC O-line was and they deserved the compliments. Since then the OL play has become almost a liability rather than a strength. In particular, Toa seems badly miscast as a LT. And then I look up and see Austin Jackson flying down the field covering kicks! He is one large, agile young man. He’s getting his feet wet as far as physical contact goes. If Toa continues to falter, do you think we’ll see Austin get a shot at LT?

I’ll agree with everything you’re saying about Austin Jackson, I love his potential as the future left tackle of the Trojans. But you’re also correct about Toa’s play recently at left tackle, and that opinion is shared by some former USC offensive linemen that I’ve talked to. I’m hoping Toa is the answer because I like the thought of a veteran protecting Sam’s blind side, no matter how much potential the true freshman has.


Any ideas as to who may redshirt yet?

Jack Sears, Randal Grimes, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Brett Neilon, Jalen McKenzie, Brandon Pili, Jay Tufele, Jacob Lichtenstein, Hunter Echols, Tayler Katoa, Jay Godfrey and Isaiah Pola-Mao are still eligible to redshirt. Johnathan Lockett, Jacob Daniel, Olajuwon Tucker and Pie Young are also eligible, while Dominic Davis has already confirmed he will redshirt.

Burak Uslu

Do you think coaches will loosen up Darnold this week? Will they have more design quarterback draws?

I would love to see more designed Sam runs as part of the offense. He does it well and can be very effective, I’m just not sure if we will see it or not.


Adjene was returning punts but not playing defense. Why was that?

His knee injury didn’t allow him to take part on defense but he was able to do punt returns, and I think that shows one of the main reasons he was chosen for that role. It’s not that he is a dangerous option like Adoree’ was but the coaches trust him to catch the ball and not make mistakes, and he is a good enough athlete to get some yards when he can.


Where is Josh Imatorbhebhe?

Josh probably had his most impactful practice week of the fall this past week when he got a lot of action due to so many receivers being out. He was banged up here and there in camp, and now is kind of behind other guys as we head to the middle of the season, but we saw flashes this week to remind us of what he can bring to the table. It will be interesting to see when he gets an opportunity in a game.


We have played against 2 freshmen QBs who have had moderate success against our defense. What can we do differently on the defensive side of the ball vs. a veteran like Falk?

I think the biggest different is going to be the four-man line with Rector at an outside DE spot, and the potential for more dime packages with wrinkles that haven’t been seen so far. If you listen to Kevin Bruce in the pre-game podcast this week he does a good job talking about how the move of Rector to Gustin’s spot allows for a different look, and why it has been successful so far. If we can get pressure with those four, and get into the passing lanes for Falk, it could be a good day. And the fact that Helton mentioned there would be some dime packages that hadn’t been seen yet, that’s not usually something a coach does. This is a true chess match between Clancy Pendergast and Mike Leach that should be fun to watch.


How about Christian Rector making the most of his opportunity! Who else on defensive could make an impact like that if given the opportunity? Also what role do you see for Joseph Lewis the rest of the way?

It’s been great to see and it’s not like it’s an out of the blue emergence, Rector has steadily improved and bulked up to get to this point. I don’t see another reserve on defense who is as ready as Christian was to step in with this kind of impact, but the two freshmen I’ve really been impressed with in their limited playing time has been Levi Jones and Bubba Bolden. Those two are going to be real good. As for Lewis, if he stays healthy I don’t think it will be long before he makes an impact, and it could come at any time. He’s got all the tools to succeed.


I do believe Pac12 play will start this friday 9 i think most fans and coaches overstimated CAL) and we will see more schemes, more PT for players……is it just me that feels CP has hold most of the defense schemes for he first 4 games since our main goal this season is PAC12 championship any indication so far during the week that WE will play a different type of game starting Friday and I mean compete game

There is definitely a feeling that the USC defense matches up well for this one with what Clancy has planned, and if we can get pressure with the four down linemen it could be a good day for the Trojans.


Do we miss Daniel Imatorbhebhe more than we think? I don’t recall us having a real high impacet tight end since Fred Davis unless it is Imatorbhebhe and I believe the difference between this year and last year is reflected by his absence.

I don’t think it’s a case of missing him more than we think, it’s a case of missing him exactly as much as we thought we would. This is a guy that was projected by a lot of people as the #2 receiving option behind Deontay because of his chemistry with Sam, and there’s been a hole trying to file that spot without him in the line-up. Helton says there is a plan in place from the doctors to have him back around the Notre Dame game, which would be great.


How is Jonathan Locket’s recovery going? It’s a shame he is going to miss a game like this one. (Wash St.)

We haven’t heard any update lately on Lockett regarding his recovery from hip surgery. I agree that his absence is felt in a game like this, I thought he would be the first corner off the bench behind Marshall or Jones, or perhaps even be a starter.


Which is the more critical matchup this Friday: our defensive line against their offensive line? or our secondary against their receivers?

I’m going to go with the d-line on this one although it’s a close call because the two units will need to work hand-in-hand for this game. The natural thought is to say the secondary because they will be responsible for the passes thrown by Falk, but the d-line can be the best friend of the secondary by pressuring Falk, causing havoc in his passing lanes, his timing, etc.

Touchdown for USC

On road trips does the team and media fly charter?

The team flies charter, and the radio crew flies with them, but the rest of the media is on their own to get there.

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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