So many things had to happen to make this season special. Early in spring camp, you could feel that buzz that this offense was only in need of a slight improvement of the defense and special teams. Then the fall camp came around and no sign of a letup in expectations. It's easy to write what went wrong as we all saw it. We all witnessed areas of the program that just didn't fit the narrative of a program getting ready to compete at the next level.
We lost our AD, Michael Bohn, who in my opinion was KEY to the heartbeat of this new team with this new coach, Lincoln Riley. We all wondered what was going to happen next as this team clearly was going to see a lot of eyes on it from the beginning. Then came game one and all is well. Game two and ok I'm sensing this might be real. All the way through game six of the season and the team is undefeated. But the experts see something. Hell, we all saw it. This team was not winning convincingly. This team was barely getting by and teetering on the brink of a reversal of fortune.
Watching this team and this staff completely unwind was painful. These kids were still the same kids we all rallied around and appeared to have that FightOn spirit that drives the Trojan Family. I still believe in these kids. We had a once-in-a-generation QB and Heisman Award winner return and although stat-wise he was right there as last year (close enough compare) it didn't feel like last year's performance as he tried to carry the entire team on his back at all times. Every snap was a question mark. You felt it. You leaned forward. You saw what happened. He lost his confidence in the route running and was running for his life most of the time. His release time was never early in the play sequence but he stayed in the pocket or tried to much longer whereas last year he was out of the pocket early. Willing to run to first downs and bring those CBs in on future plays. In 2023, Caleb seemed different in the post-snap reads. He was staying home, reading and looking then when the O Line could not sustain their blocks he would try to take off but was caught more often than not.
I am curious where Kliff Kingsbury weighs in on the changes to Caleb's game and how that may have played a role in what we saw. Caleb was and is a warrior. Don't mess with success for crying out loud. Something changed. Through it all #13 was and is an amazing young man with a great future. Will he go NFL? He might just surprise as when you have unfinished business well things can happen with your mind. With NIL money, he could afford one more year. I fear that would be a mistake. I believe his value is untainted by 2023 and should go now. He has earned it and the Trojan Family was blessed to have him in command of the offense.
The Defense, that says it all in my opinion. Where was it? These kids were moving in the right direction in 2022 and then a reversal. We just needed a 25% statistical improvement and we are golden and this happened. We were clearly not improving and the final numbers will prove this and show USC at the bottom of D One statistically. The coach was fired. His confusing armband late change calls caught these kids off balance and reading their armbands while the snap count was over. Total disarray at all levels of the defense. Suddenly we were incapable of turnovers after one season of sensational numbers. What did Grinch do? Or not do? He's gone now. This team is moving to the Big 10 where the schedule is going to eat them alive if they don't get immediate help (TP) within the interior on both sides of the ball. Lincoln Riley has to figure out the running game and clock management fast. This is a program now 3 years away from competing at the next level.
While miracles do happen, like 2022 until the last 3 games, I'm seeing 2 years of building the interior as the real focus to get this team physically back in business. We have plenty of offense and plenty of elite talent so get a first-rate DC and build this team to where all Trojan families want to see going forward.