In this edition of the mailbag we talk about offensive line philosophy, the early signing period, and the return of Toa Lobendahn and Kenny Bigelow
Will Ykili Ross get significant playing time this year?
He’s putting himself in a good position right now and has been running a lot with the 2’s this summer. I don’t think there are any questions about his physical abilities, it’s more a matter of Ykili (above, with Kenny Bigelow) mastering the defense more and more.
1a. I am going to miss Adoree on offense and special teams. Will either Velus Jones or Jack Jones (or someone else) do a fair imitation this year?
Velus Jones seemed like the early favorite to play that role in spring after getting off to a terrific start, but if you were to ask me after watching the summer workouts so far I would put Jackie Jones as the best candidate for the job. Jackie simply has a big-play ability that is coming out a lot, and I think he’s making more of an impact on offense than he’s made on defense.
1b.. I am also going to miss Darreus Rogers and the way he fought for contested catches. Who on the roster brings that ability to win 50-50 balls like Darreus?
Good question because I think Darreus was as good as anyone we’ve seen in a while at coming down with those balls. I’m going to go with Josh Imatorbhebhe, he’s so strong and he’s got the 47” vertical leap that he showed off at The Opening two years ago. Michael Pittman and Tyler Vaughns are both long and could easily shine in this area as well.
This came up in one of the threads—I’d love to hear your take on it. Coach Helton has said repeatedly that he wants to commit to establishing a running game capable of taking over in the second half, eating clock and sealing the victory at the end of the game. Most people hear that and assume it means stocking the line with 5 guys, all 320 lbs. or better, moving defenders like a bunch of bull-dozers. Thus, guys like Damion Mama and Zach Banner: massive, powerful, huge, but relatively slow.
Is that Helton’s running game philosophy?
Or are we transitioning to a Mike Shanahan/Broncos of the 1990’s philosophy, of 5 guys who all flow as one toward the side-line, each occupying a space, not necessarily attacking the guy directly in front of them, facemask-to-facemask? A zone blocking scheme. The old Bronco linemen were selected for their ability to move well in space and run sideline to sideline for 4 quarters, knowing that eventually, the defense would tire and their running backs (Terrell Davis, Clinton Portis, Tatum Bell, Reuben Droughns . . . they had a bunch of 1000 yard rushers over the years) would slash you for a big run.
Are we seeing a change in our running game philosophy, and thus, a change in the kind of athlete we are recruiting for the offensive line?
Helton acknowledged in spring that the 2017 version of the USC offensive line would likely be smaller and more athletic than the 2016 version, and that the coaches would adjust for that difference. The good news is that this change should fit well with Sam Darnold and his improvisational skills, but I also don’t think it’s just a short-term move to account for Darnold, I think this is the direction Helton and Neil Callaway want to go for the future. The commit from a guy like Liam Douglass is a sign of that, there were other guys ranked higher who were more finished products but he’s got a lot of growth left and real good athleticism.
Garry, who in your view is the most important lineman commit for USC in this recruiting cycle? He can be OL or DL.
I would really love to finish things off on the OL with a big-time tackle. Jackson Carman or Penei Sewell are the first names that come to mind.
Waiting to hear when Sam returns to practice.
He should be there Friday when the team throws.
How do you see the early signing period playing out for USC? How about for other top tier programs?
I’m taking a big “wait-and-see” on this one because we just don’t know how Helton, and other coaches, will approach it. Do you try to get as many kids as possible to sign early, how do you stagger who signs early and who waits until February? It’s a completely new dynamic to a recruiting process that Helton has shown he knows how to manage well (look at how he’s closed the last two signing days) but with all the recruiting momentum on USC’s side these days I’m guessing the Trojans will adjust fine.
2 questions if it’s okay.
#1 – I know Boermeister is a private thing. But, can you comment on why t’s taking so long?
I really don’t know because there just aren’t any details being provided by the university. We don’t even know if the case is going through student conduct or if that process has been completed, and those are usually the times when we don’t hear anything due to privacy issues. I’m sure Helton will be asked about the status either at Pac-12 media day or early in fall camp.
#2 – What’s your assessment of what’s going on with Oregon doing so well in recruiting?
I think Taggart is going to be a formidable recruiter for the Ducks. He’s got a lot of energy and his style is appealing to a lot of recruits. And Oregon is still Nike U in the eyes of those recruits, a school that has achieved a lot of success in their college football memory span (notwithstanding the recent Helfrich years).
QB Fields and RB Cook. What would you say our chances are with these guys?
Both are high-profile recent de-commits and the Trojans are in the circle of schools they will now look at. There is a lot of speculation that James Cook will end up at Georgia but his cousin Jamel could obviously be a hook to help get him casting more of a glance at USC. The hard part for me is justifying two scholarships at the RB spot with Mychale Salahuddin already in the fold but if you have a chance to get both, you do it. With Fields, this one is a long way from over as he comes out of the Opening with talk of him rising to the top QB spot in the nation. The rumor mill for Justin right now is mostly Georgia, Florida State and Florida but the Trojans only recently threw their hat in the ring after the Corral de-commit. I would think the best chances for Justin to consider USC is a big season from our QB, which should happen this year.
Touchdown for USC
When can USC add its 10th coach? Any thoughts of candidates and if there will be a realignment of coaching responsibilities?
January 9, 2018 is the date that a coach can be added. Helton hasn’t tipped his hand as to where he would bring in another body, but there was a lot of speculation in spring that it could be Adrian Klemm (former UCLA OL coach) after Klemm was spotted at multiple USC practices. You could bring in a TE coach to allow John Baxter to focus on special teams. It could also make sense to add another coach to the defensive side to give Clancy more help, although it’s doubtful Clancy would want to completely give up coaching a position (he handles ILB’s right now).
Garry, have you heard whether the training wheels will be taken off of of Bigelow and Lobendahn to begin training camp or will they still be handled carefully to begin with? I am especially excited to see what these men can contribute to the season.
Friday is the first day that we can interview players after the PRP’s so if we’re able to grab Kenny or Toa we will get whatever update we can.