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USC Football

USC Scoop's A Pair Of Takes: The Next Offensive Line Coach

January 5, 2021

Josh An

For another offseason, USC and Clay Helton are looking to replace assistant coaches. Last year, the defensive staff went through an overhaul, and this year the Trojans will be looking for a new offensive line coach and strength and conditioning coach.

Tim Drevno had a solid record as an offensive line coach at both the pro and college levels over the years, but it was always a bad match for him to be coaching the lineman at USC under Graham Harrell’s offense. If you look at back at the Spring of 2019 and look at Coach Drevno’s quotes from then, it was pretty obvious this was always an awkward fit.

I bring this up to say one of the biggest things I’m looking for in a new offensive line coach is some sort of familiarity with the system Coach Harrell is running. I’m not saying they have to come from an Air Raid tree, but someone who understands and has a comfortability with the Harrell-raid would be very beneficial as USC’s offensive line is going to have some inexperienced starters next year.

Secondly, I’m hoping for an offensive line coach that is a dynamic recruiter. Not to bash on Drevno too much, but I think it is fair to say recruiting simply wasn’t his forte. I think the Trojans recruited some underrated prospects over the last two years(Ford, Monheim, etc.), but the class is still lacking a headline blue-chip prospect that the other blue bloods of college football have. It’s simply not fair for Viane as a GA to be competing with full-time OL coaches from around the country. I’m not saying you can find the O-Line version of Donte Williams in one offseason, but someone who is a respected name on the recruiting circuits should be able to be convinced to come to USC.

The 2021 season is obviously going to be important for USC. With the team losing multiple starters on both sides of the ball, the staff is going to have to “rebuild” at some areas with a fan base that has long last its patience. That’s why its incredibly important for Helton, Harrell and Co. to bring in someone that can rejuvenate that particular position and develop the young offensive lineman quickly into solid starters.

Marc Kulkin

USC needs a new offensive line and strength & conditioning coaches before spring camp and before the winter workouts are scheduled to begin in February.  Focusing on the line coach, what qualities are priority 1, 1A, and 1B with the hire? 

Ultimately, the hire needs to have a strong run game history on his resume.--Someone who can immediately build toughness into an offensive scheme built on finesse.--Someone who can add some meaning to the offensive line's "tough, disciplined, and united" mantra, the same way Vic So'oto did with the defensive line.

When Graham Harrell was hired as the Trojans offensive coordinator, Tim Drevno was one of Tee Martin's few holdovers from an offensive staff with no philosophy or identity; Or so it seemed. Drevno was also named the run game coordinator when he took over full-time OL duties once Neil Callaway was let go. 

Putting aside the talent levels inside the running back and offensive line position groups, the offensive line in particular has been a significant point of concern for a while now.--Unless you’re facing them in the trenches as an opponent.

Trojan fans and the opposition are shown glimmers of hope and occasional strong performances, but those efforts always get overshadowed by despair and "weak" performances.  Hey, Everyone is aware COVID played a role with the S&C in 2020.  However, it's more than just the physical beats USC's OL consistently endures. It has more to do with believing in what you're doing.  

Which begs the question(s); did Coach Drevno believe in what he was being asked to coach?--Did the offensive linemen themselves believe in what they were being asked to do?

Coach Drevno was asked to coach a specific offensive scheme, and he did what he was asked.  But in his second year of coaching Graham Harrell's playstyle, the offensive line and the team were put in some challenging situations, and they never seemed to get better as the season went along. In the first two games of the season, the run game looked solid.  In the last four games, the run game and the offense in general, looked like a sloppy rendition of a Tee Martin Offensive Production.

Nevertheless, Someone had to take the fall for the lack of production, and Clay has his wagon hitched to Graham Harrell, for now. 

If Clay were to fire Harrell, it would be another admission of philosophy failure by the man who wants USC to be like Stanford, or whatever the "This-Is-Who-We-Are" flavor of the day.  For now, the Trojans will continue to be a Graham Harrell-Raid offensive team. 

So what are the most important needs regarding the next offensive line coaching hire?

How much experience with the "Air-Raid" style should go into the hiring decision?  And perhaps more importantly, will the new OLine coach have any influence on the blocking scheme and run game?  If not, does it make any difference who is named to coach the position?

Drevno served as the "yes man" so it might be time for a more assertive personality with enough bonafide behind his name to help Graham Harrell understand the importance of knowing who offensive linemen are, both physically and mentally.

Can recruiting be a strength of the next Trojan offensive line coach?  Drevno, while an excellent technical coach, was never known as a great recruiter, and if the standard we're basing it, are the best prospects on paper choosing the Trojans, then the results do not pass the bar.  On the topic of recruiting; When considering the next OLine coach, if the next hire is a current college coach, does it matter how they treated/recruited current Trojans who are already on the roster? Did they have a positive experience with the coach, or were they treated poorly?  Keep in mind recruiting is a dirty business, and paths cross all the time.  This might seem trivial, however, the transfer portal is is not trivial.

More nuance for consideration. USC is losing two all-conference WRs to the draft, leaving a freak of an athlete in Drake London and an even freakier freak of an athlete, Bru McCoy, to carry the heavy lifting while the other receivers work their way into the rotation.  With Kedon Slovis having his pass-catching security blankets reduced in half overnight, the run game will become much more critical to the team's offensive success in 2021. 

Whoever the lucky person is that wins the golden ticket and is chosen to help restore the Trojans' offensive line's glory, they'll have to get it done under similar circumstances that faced the Trojan's staff in 2020.  And that little bit of nuance could play a role with perspective candidates answering the call when the phone rings.

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