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USC Football

USC SCoop’s Tuesday's Notes & Observations: Offense And Getting Under The Center

November 17, 2020

It's Tuesday, which means it's the day of the week when we get to talk with Clay Helton and then dissect the offense with Graham Harrell.  

The first 15-minutes of today's ZOOM session starts off with Clay and his typical "Happy Tuesday Everybody" and then quickly pivots to his opening remarks. Grahan Harrell, Markese Stepp, and Jalen McKenzie are scheduled to carry the show's balance to the end zone.

A few points of interest Coach Helton highlighted with USC traveling to Salt Lake City to play the Utah Utes; 

  • Utah is 11-0 in their home openers during the Kyle Whittingham era.
  • Rice-Eccles Stadium is always a tough place to play; however, this year, the environment will feel different with no fans in attendance. Potentially this is a big break for USC, who typically struggles against the Utes, who are always one of the most well-disciplined teams and feeds off their fans' energy. Especially on defense.
  • There will be many new faces on the Utah defense, but Whittingham will have his guys ready.

**This will be the third week in a row for the Trojans playing a team that has an identity crisis, in the sense that USC will not have any film to watch for tendencies from all the new faces littering the Ute field when the two teams play. This applies to the Utah offense, too, as USC waits to determine who the Ute's starting quarterback will be. The Utes do return 4 out of 5 from last season's starting offensive line, and that should help whoever is the new starting quarterback.

**Coach Helton mentioned he feels the LB position is the rock of Utah's defense, although they[the Utes] will be replacing all 5 of the starting players from last season's secondary.

**On USC's Injury Front:

**Brett Neilon got some work in yesterday during a light practice session. Helton said, "Brett got some work in and was able to move around yesterday, we'll see how he progresses."

**Palaie Gaoteote and Brandon Pili did not practice, and from listening to Helton's tone, I get the sense either one won't be making the trip. Palaie is in the concussion protocol, and Pili's hand is still not healthy enough to get out there and practice.

**Both Caleb Tremblay and Talanoa Hufanga were out there for Monday's practice session; however, both were limited with their workload. Tremblay was reported to have "stinger issues" on Saturday in Tucson, and Hufanga is nursing a deep thigh bruise above the right knee, which he suffered during the game.

**Both the fans and the media should know by now, head coaches are trained in coachspeak. It does not matter how the question is phrased; the coach will always try and apply a positive spin on the response.  

**The first question of the day was about the "team," and when was the last time Helton felt he had a team playing at their "full potential." This is where the coachspeak just clicks into overdrive. Coaches like to highlight the positive by pointing out how "individual" players are improving; Helton's point is that the team grows together when the individual parts develop together. He feels the individual pieces are growing together as a team.

**My left eyebrow raised just a little bit when I heard Helton say, "this team can be special because of its mental toughness and can be disciplined in a clutch situation." My initial thought was, how about being disciplined all game long and not just in the clutch situations? That was the fan side of me talking. From a coaching perspective, I understand entirely what Helton is attempting to convey, and the team does have the potential to "be special."

It was clear that Clay disagreed with the question of growing and reaching their full potential. Or at least he saw it from a different perspective.

**The obvious question regarding the concern about COVID and the "spike" in the SLC metro area was brought up, and once again, Coachspeak 101, "We control what we can…but things are still trending in the right direction". The game is still scheduled to be played as long as Utah's roster numbers continue to grow from out of quarantine.

**The subject about USC's run game was going to be the emphasis today in light of the Trojans' struggles in short-yardage situations, so Clay took the time to commend Graham Harrell when he said, "the improvement of the running game needs to continue to grow." He then credits Harrell for calling run plays during "important situations." On the flipside, Helton did note that the run game has to get better, and the QB has to be more disciplined and stay patient.

**Graham Harrell's perspective on the run the game echoed Clay's. "To be great you have to run the ball effectively. I think that last week we were pretty efficient, to be honest that's probably what kept us in the game."

Clay did point out the team rushed the ball 34 times for the game with an average of 5.6 yards per attempt.

**Harrell's philosophy on the run game has not changed

**On the question about Kedon Slovis and whether he has throwing/mechanical issues was a topic since it's been two games in a row where Slovis and the ball coming out of his hand does not look right.

Helton said it had to with the "tackiness of the ball"; New balls tend to be slick, and in the "dry windy air environment Kedon couldn't get a good grip on it, and didn't feel confident." Coach wanted to remind everyone and Kedon about his 73% accuracy and 300 yards stat to back this up and was confident that "it's a one time thing."

**With that said, Helton did say, "we worked with him last night, finding a "good group of balls that he likes" and he spun it about as pretty as Ive ever seen it last night" [practice]

**Graham Harrell is up next…straight to questions with no opening remarks. We just saved 15 minutes at Geico! LOL

**When Harrell is asked about "Ball Gate,"he mentioned the ball probably slipped out of Slovis' hand once, and that got into his head a little bit.  “There’s nothing wrong with Kedon’s mechanics." 

**Harrell was not sure why Slovis said that, considering there are no issues with his mechanics. When you're watching the interview, it sounded like Harrell was calling Slovis a headcase.  

**The most frustrating portion of the Q & A was when Harrell was asked about lining up the QB under Center; Harrell on going under center: "That's not something we do."  Harrell added it's difficult to implement those exchanges with limited practice time, and he would instead focus on getting good at what USC does already. More than anything, "it's just not something we do a ton of." "Less and less of it in general." "It takes time and we're limited with time in practice."

I'm not going to shy away from my opinion on this response...*eye roll!*

**Markese Stepp and Jalen McKenzie chipped in with a few answers, and tomorrow's session will be about the defense, with DrakeJackson, Ralen Goforth, and CoachOrlando.

Tags: Football, USC, Utah
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USC SCoop’s Tuesday's Notes & Observations: Offense And Getting Under The Center

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