There are times when the emotional roller coaster of power five football schools flows in the same direction. Riding through the ups and downs of a team and their season. The key to keeping it all on the tracks is consistency. When you say you are going to focus on a cultural image like a physical team then by God you should do everything in your power to show your team and your fans the path to that end goal. When a leader of a football team extends this image beyond the fence lines then he or she sets an expectation that needs to be measured and needs to have time to be fairly evaluated. So, what is that time frame? What keeps a fanbase from being divided and is it possible to change and bring everyone together.
The simple answer is yes. The key to getting there is to lead by example. We were all teased in “Mock” game week when the team went through a very competitive week of practice and preparation. So at this point in this season, coach Clay Helton met those fanbase expectations. The kids showed a great passion during that week of preparation and were given a chance to compete one’s against the one’s. This was misleading as we all see now. The minute the UNLV game was in the near-term horizon everything reverted back to the pre-hyped physicality battle cry. So, what happened coach? Why did you suddenly shift gears and further divide those who are “true believers” against those who want the highest standards of USC Trojan football to show up each Saturday. You play as you practice and now we have a fanbase divided deeply. Now we have a team that doesn’t understand the game time situations. Clay instituted Mastery Thursday. This was to focus on key game situations and deeply prepare the team for the moment and not be staring at the sideline or whispering helmet to helmet as we saw in Texas.
We have a very gifted set of true freshmen and sophomores on this roster. We have a group of kids who came to USC to further their development and prepare themselves for the next level of their aspiring careers. They deserve more. The fans are watching and tweeting their loyalty in both directions. There is clearly a divide right now from the Riki Ellisons who attack the fans who want Lynn Swan to make immediate changes to the deeply passionate fans who want USC competing each week to earn that coveted seat at the playoff table. Both sides are right and deserve to be heard but both sides together are much stronger than divided. The chaos in etherland is huge today. From facebook to twitter to even Instagram there are mounting cries for change and change at a very high level. So what went wrong?
We have a true freshmen quarterback who is going to be very special. All signs point to that. We have a young AD in experience, Lynn Swann. We have a first time head coach in his third year in Clay Helton. We have an offensive coordinator who is learning on the job in year three. Our statements in pre-season are not aligning with our actions during the week or even camp. We do not practice what we preach and this is on the coach. Clay Helton is a super nice guy. Incredible family man who is who he says he is. No phony here. But is that good enough? Is it the staff? What if the head coach doesn’t have the experience to truly make the changes that need to be made in any program. Learning on the job at 3 key levels of the program is a recipe for failure in my humble opinion. I will say that our recruiting ability is clearly at an all-time high so there is some silver linings here with the current staff. But what happens after they get here? Not much. Development is the key and that isn’t happening. So lets go back to the fans.
A deeply divided fanbase impact all aspects of a young or old football team. With the internet and all our advanced communication tools nothing goes unseen or heard for too long. From the fans at the game who see things that are both good and bad to the opinions. We mimic our passon and our expectations are drive by this. The Trojan fanbase is deep and tenured. They are called Spoiled Children because they expect nothing but the National Championship now that we have that as the ultimate measurement of success. The fans were constantly told by Coach Helton that this year in his third year we have a shot at being a very strong team and mentioned National Championship goals on many occasion. This even though he has struggled as the leader of the program to execute against the elite teams, Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, etc. So, careful what you say coach as the pain you are suffering in the media is self induced. The fans want to see your physicality. We want to see a team that is up 14-3 in a hostile stadium lose 37-14. What the hell was that all about? This team is not physical so let’s just understand that and assume a Pac-12 South championship and a shot at a back-to-back Pac-12 Championship is still there. It is there schedule wise. But is that enough.
Coach believes that development of players is more so in playing the games and not in practice. But if we all agree that you play as you practice you have to put the pads on more than 2 hours a week. Let the kids experience game time Monday through Thursday. Use Friday as film and final prep and walk through. Do not assume injury will destroy your team. We have depth. Next man up is now possible if you believe your recruiting has been as good as the Stars state that it has been. Imagine the fanbase reaction if suddenly the sideline reporting talked about Mock week again only its week 4? Coach Helton would begin to turn the tide of distrust by taking action to actually deliver physical branded football.
Time will tell and hopefully one day soon we will start to see the fans on all sides of this argument talking about the great game last week and how this and that all came together before our eyes. What a concept. Start taking the steps, Coach Helton. If you want to save your staff, right or wrong, get physical and put the pads on to the maximum that the Pac-12 allows. Compete. Ones against Ones.