Bumped...DC is too modest not to have put this on the front page. - P
I've been struck by some of the reactions I've seen on last night's game because they brought to mind a Wall Street Journal article from a few years ago that ranked college programs based on the number of players that they put in the NFL. Florida State was one of the highest ranked at the time, but the article noted that the team had started to get worse results because their habit of recruiting top-notch athletes and having them just flat outplay the opposition was no longer working as well.
Then I thought about the tendency of Bobby Bowden to keep coaching in-house, culminating in re-hiring Chuck D'Amato, and Mickey Adams complaining the other week because it was getting harder to set up good defensive schemes that the opposition couldn't get past.
Any of this sound superficially similar to where SC is right now on the coaching side of life? I don't know what Pete Carroll and the other coaches have in mind for the rest of the season, for the recruiting trail, and next year, but I sure hope it isn't just doubling down on what's worked before.
It's not the general attitude that I'm worried about. Pete Carroll has said a lot about how he had an epiphany about what his philosophy was, and I've always taken that to be the focus on a positive outlook and accountability. That is absolutely worth preserving - but let's see these kids play like they really think they're having to earn something on every play. And let's give them some new schemes to work with, so that they aren't trying to outplay people whose coaches are out-thinking them. There's no point in McKnight getting better at interior running and ball protection, or Bradford emerging as a real threat, if we can't keep the opposition from stacking the line against the run every time.
Sarkisian and Holt know how Pete Carroll thinks. Riley is coaching up Oregon State every year and has our number on offense. And Chip Kelly is showing just how much Oregon had to gain by Bellotti moving on, and how much mileage can be gained from creativity on offense.
Pete Carroll has given so much to us as USC fans, it kills me to even suggest that there's a need for some changes in how the team plays. But whether you want to characterize it as the rest of the conference catching up, or the Trojans being on a glide path, it sure looks like it's time to mix it up. I'd hate to see us end up like Florida State, still getting good athletes but having erratic results and a legendary coach staying too long.
Is it presumptuous of me to write the headline that I did? Sure, inasmuch as I'm not part of the team and for all I know this could just be an aberration. But recurring patterns rarely resolve themselves. I also know that the coaches and the players have it in them to prove me wrong. Here's hoping they can figure it out together.