Photo by © Mark J. Rebilas - USA Today
USC Football

Five Burning Questions Heading Into Fall Camp

July 29, 2019

It’s finally here, the bell lap to the off season finish line.   The 2019 USC Trojans had an overhaul starting with the coaching, staff essentially punching the reset button.   Gone are offensive cooridantor Tee Martin, offensive line coach Neil Callaway, defensive line coach Kenichi Udeze, secondary coach, Ronnie Bradford and strength & conditioning coach Ivan Lewis, and the new guys taking the baton have been charged with fixing a foregttable 2018 season.  

Clay Helton is clearly on the hot seat after the way the team performed in 2018, and he should be--As the head coach the buck stops here.   One of the loudest and fair criticisms thrown at Helton has been the team’s lack of preperation; so we ask, how USC will address the perception being not only physically tough but mentally prepared.

The first burning question--What kind impact will the staff changes have?

Early signs are pointing to the positive.  I‘ve always been of the opinion that making a change is neither goor or bad, however, it’s more about how one handles the change(s).  So far everyone seems to have embraced the new staff’s approach--starting with the strength & conditioning program.   The sweat, pain and grind of climbing back to the top of the mountain starts inside the McKay center, and it’s also where a brotherhood is born.  Coach Ausmus set the tone raising the bar challenging the players to get bigger and stronger and he also asked the team to hold each other accountable by doing things the Trojan Way.  The Trojan Way of doing things is best explained by Hunter Echols who defined what it means to USC Scoop’s Scott Schrader.

ECHOLS: “It’s something that’s just expected, it’s something we expect to do every day and to live a certain way every day.”

The other major component to the renewed excitement inside the Halls of Troy is the arrival of a new offensive identity.  Coach Graham Harrell was brought in and he brought with him his version of the Air Raid offense; If Mike Leach(Harrell’s former coach and mentor) can be successful with it, Trojan fans are left to imagine the success USC could have with the level of talent available on the roster.  

ECHOLS: on what the Trojan Way means: “It’s something that’s just expected, it’s something we expect to do every day and to live a certain way every day.”

The second a Secondary question.

Being strong up the middle defensively applies to every sport and particularly in football, so unless the Trojans talented, albeit thin safety corp can stay healthy, any hope of a successful season will be quickly erased.  Expected returning starters Tananoa Hufanga and Isaiah Pola-Mao have already both in their young careers injured their respective shoulders twice, and C.J. Pollard played last season with a broken bone in his foot which also limited him this spring.   The young cornerbacks with even less game experience will rely on the safeties as they learn to make the week to week adjustments.  If any of the safeties with actual game experince go down with injury, the domino effect will be felt throughout the secondary and youth will be served.

Who will be USC’s Starting QB--Will there be a true quaterback competition??

With the new media restrictions put in place covering practice, the question--will there be a true quarterback competition?... is open for debate.  But is it really?   JT Daniels who started 11 of the 12 games as a true freshmen only missing the Arizona State game after he suffered a concussion against Utah, is already on the pre season award watch lists.   So did the Davey O’Brien Foundation assume the incumbent Daniels would hold on to the starting spot, or did USC submit Daniel’s name for consideration?  Will Clay Helton hold true to his words when he said he’ll let Harrell make the quarterback choice?   Things that make you go hmmm??  

How will the running back position be featured?

In the first question we discussed change.  With the change in offensive identity many Trojan fans and running back recruits, are wondering what kind of role the running back will have in the Air Raid offense.   On paper the Trojans have the right compliment of backs to keep the defenses off balance so who will the Trojans introduce as the new starting running back...and will the running back(s) be featured enough to make USC a destination for elite recruits?

How will the Trojans of 2019 respond when things aren’t going well?

Everyone’s been talking a good game this off season and the walk so far seems to back up the talk.  But what happens when the lights are shining and someone punches you in the mouth?  Will this year’s team reach deep and find their Trojan Way or will they revert form and play undisciplined with penalties and turnovers that led to four losses by seven points or less in 2018; A 9-3 record is an acceptable down season for Trojan fans...5-7, not so much...especially with a true freshman starting at quarterback.

A question will loom until we see if the culture really has changed, because the remaining common denominator who can demand change is Clay Helton.   Starting on Friday questions will begin to get answered.

subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.