Happy New Year Trojan Family
When you go 11-2 and you win your conference beating a top rival twice in one season to get there you feel pretty good about what you have accomplished. 11-2 should always be viewed as a successful year. Comparing 2016 to 2017 taking the bowls out of the review you clearly made progress. USC as a program made progress and the future, with a few big decisions to be made, is bright. It takes time to clean up 9+ years of reduced investment caused by the almighty NCAA death squad.
Looking back at 2017 prior to the Bowl loss to Ohio State one could only smile as the team won the south convincingly then took on the Cardinal from Stanford and beat them for a second time in the same season (that doesn’t happen to Stanford often) winning the Pac-12 Conference outright. Feeling good and rightfully so. Then we go in to Bowl preparation and that uneasy feeling about the current staff leaks in. Rumors of fun outings and lots of socializing and resting/healing going on while your opponent is sharping their knives and honing their skills in full pads prior to the big game at the Cotton Bowl in a least favorite venue of all time, AT&T Field.
But rest we did and loose we became but the team talked a good pregame. The coaching staff looked very confident. Then we had to play the game and the ball was all over the place least of all in the protection of our players when it mattered most. We have already talked to the game and spoken often about what could have been but what do we expect in 2018? Can this staff coach this team to the next level? They have progressed 2 straight years under Helton but can they as they are take the next step? Logic would say Yes they can. Two consecutive improved years back to back seem to point that way but there are tells that are bothering most who follow this team and program. There are KEYS that are showing signs of no change and create that fear and uncertainty in the program leading to doubt (FUD).
We have seen several examples of a team with superior talent looking like they need their coach on the field to explain things one more time. They run an offense calling it Tempo but the team stares aimlessly at the sideline while the defense resets itself based on the personnel they can now account for. Isn’t TEMPO about catching your opponent off guard and in the wrong alignment? Why do we sit there staring at the sideline. Why not huddle up. Im a broken record on this one as so many times I yelled at the TV this year and last to Huddle Up. Look like you have been here before and the other benefit to the Huddle is Leadership.
The huddle allows for the QB and on Defense the QB of the defense (Cam Smith perhaps) to look his team in the eye and verbally get them focused. Show some passion and take names in that huddle. When you break the Huddle you RUN to the line spirited. Put the fear in to the defense and in those 5-6 seconds snap the ball and leave the Defense searching for who they are to cover and then do it again. Lining up without the huddle is sloppy. It allows the defense to stare at the position players and realign. They know the snap count with Sam as he clearly on every play will take his index finger and point to the ground right before the snap. If Im a defensive lineman on watching is hand and when he cocks it like he does every play Im gearing my feet up and Im leaning in to the snap as I know it’s coming. I get the jump on the offensive lineman when in fact the opposite is suppose to occur.
Coach Helton will be measured deeply in year 3. His only solution in the National Playoffs now. He should have been there this year but this team was once again not ready. But it did improve. Forget the Bowl as mistakes lost that game and mistakes happen. Not usually like they did in the Cotton Bowl but they do happen and thats why players play the games and coaches coach the game. Helton is going to have to show the fans and AD Lynn Swan that he knows what to do and fix what so many see as obvious areas to fix.
Tee Martin is not an OC. He cannot blame Tyson on the Cotton Bowl. We all saw the same challenges in the play calling situationally. Nothing improved and thus he must be removed
Offensive Line coach Neil Callaway has had two years to show that his methods and plan were taking USC back to where it once was. Sorry but the offensive line did not improve under Coach Callaway. Thus he too must be removed.
Helton has one year to fix these two areas of the program or he must go. He has the players attention but does he have their fear for their jobs and thus respect in that way that Saban, Meyer and the other greats do. Learning on the job is not going to be acceptable in year 3.
AD Lynn Swan needs to be visible. Not in September but more so with the program. Not talking Micromanaging but at some level is he the right AD to run the program? He too is learning on the job.
Lot’s to consider going in to 2018 and beyond. The talent is here but do we have the right set of coaching and athletic department leadership to take this program back in to the legitimate contenders versus the hyped teams year after year. I for one am tired of the hype.