What are you looking to see from the team on Saturday against Oregon State?
I’m mainly looking for crispness on the offensive side of the football. I’m pretty content with where the defense is at these days but the offense hasn’t been as consistent in recent weeks, especially after things had looked so promising during the victory against Stanford. I’m not so much concerned about specific third-down efficiencies or red zone production, I just hope to see good execution and fundamental Trojan football.
The first thing I’m looking for is for the offense to get back to basics, and that starts with establishing a physical presence up front along the offensive line, allowing for the rushing attack to set the tone. With Toa Lobendahn back in action, this seems like more of a possibility than it might have been during this past weekend’s game. Just as importantly, I’m hoping we see this back-to-basics approach reflected in terms of the offensive playcalling as well. I’d like to see less of the flea-flicker and catch-them-off-guard with a pass out to a freshman tight end-type calls. Instead, particularly in the red zone, I’ll be looking for them to rely on some more traditional rushing and passing plays to proven commodities – players like Ronald Jones, Deontay Burnett, Steven Mitchell and Tyler Vaughns, the latter of whom has really come on.
Obviously, I would like to see the Trojan players that either didn’t make the trip to Washington State or were injured during the game return to the field. That being said, this team has to now play with a tremendous sense of urgency (like they have a choice at this point?). I would like to see a USC team that that is vastly more physical on both sides of the ball. You can’t wait until the final quarter to try and turn it on; By then, the opponent smells blood. I would like to see more thought given regarding an offensive identity. A balanced offense is not an identity, so help me John McKay. No more momentum killing plays (ex. flea-flicker). Don’t be a jack of all trades and a master of none. And down at the goal line, I would like to see no more long hitch patterns especially inside the opponents 3-yard line. Play USC big boys football at the goal line and ram it in or sweep it in, but please stay out of the A-gap if you don’t have a lead fullback. Lastly, Sam Darnold shouldn’t feel he has to do it all. It’s almost like a talented basketball team with a great point guard and his teammates are standing around to see what he is going to do with the ball rather than screen and cut and be responsible for their assignments. I would like to see Sam helped by being dedicated to pounding the football on the ground (like Ronald Jones couldn’t carry the ball 20 times a game?), and then go to counters, play-action, and some bootlegs and did we mention wanting to see some screens and maybe a draw. Defensively, please, no more pass interference calls on third downs, which keeps drives alive for lethal offenses like Washington State to continue drives. Thanks, I feel better now.
After last Saturday’s disappointing loss at Washington State, I’m looking for the Trojans to do what they have become accustomed to doing: Bounce Back. The Oregon State game offers an opportunity for USC to get some confidence back by playing Trojan football. I look for the Trojans to establish the run game on offense through RB Ronald Jones, and mix in the passing game with routes that QB Sam Darnold is comfortable with. Defensively, I expect the Trojans to be stout despite some injured players on the defensive line. I look for the defensive leaders like LB Cam Smith and Safety Chris Hawkins to be opportunistic throughout the game to get the Trojans back on the winning track.
1. O-line (whoever starts and whoever plays) looking for aggressive physical blocking on run plays; o-line should be downfield into the second level with defenders hitting the ground on run plays and screens. I’m not kidding about this. The tentative nature of the o-line is a sure recipe for the hesitation and regression we’re seeing in offensive production.
2. O-line looking for a definitive assignment-based blocking scheme properly carried out. Don’t care if wrong guys are hit but hit people and protect Sam.
3. O-line looking for more gap based blocking (point of attack) and less emphasis on zone blocking. This means fewer RPO snaps and more line up and run the ball with authority.
4. Two back sets for more physical play blocking, running and then look for play action and bootlegs.
5. Complete at least three passes to the tight end
6. Complete two balls over 30 yards (excluding YAC)
7. Please note that my comments started with the offensive line…it’s that important to the success of the team
8. Defensively I’m looking for rest & recovery for Fatu & Green…extremely important these guys heal up as we have very physical games coming up and they are the heart of the D-line
9. Want to see Bigelow and Pili play lots of minutes (and Tuipulotu if ready from a twitchy back)
10. Secondary coverage needs to show good tight man or press/zone by the CBs
11. Watch the Will linebacker to see if we can get some production and physicality.
12. Cam Smith cannot get hurt…ever.