USC in week #3...Depth and Experience

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 01: Assistant head coach Monte Kiffin on the sidelines during the USC Trojans spring game on May 1, 2010 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

When the NCAA decided that USC had to open its doors and have a fire sale on it players many of us weren't sure as to just what the effects would be on the program.

We lost a few players, two of which were seen by many as malcontents, but depth is depth. The ability to rotate players in and out gives the starters a chance to rest while giving the back-ups the opportunity to get some valuable reps. As we can all see when you don't have the depth you can't rotate players.

That puts the coaching staff in a precarious position in managing the roster as a whole. Joey discussed redshirting players yesterday. Like it or not some players need to be kept out so we have them in later years of the death penalty that the NCAA imposed on USC.

Kiffin has a some chess moves to figure out...

The exemption that allowed juniors and seniors to transfer without penalty enabled defensive end Malik Jackson to leave for Tennessee and fullback D.J. Shoemate to go to Connecticut.

Both would have been backups for the Trojans — and both have been missed.

An apparent lack of confidence in the available reserves at those positions and others has Coach Lane Kiffin's staff playing starters for nearly the entire game. The Trojans' fatigue was evident in the fourth quarter at Hawaii and against Virginia.

"It's hurt us, not being able to rotate people," Kiffin said Wednesday. "You know, we go to try and rest a defensive end and our defensive end is starting at Tennessee. We go to rest a fullback and he's playing for UConn."

I am scratching my head a little bit about Malik Jackson here as it has been rumored heavily that he was "encouraged" to transfer. If you didn't want him you can't really complain that he is gone.

Moving on...

It is a delicate balance and even Lane Kiffin didn't anticipate the struggles that he currently seeing. Here is the best example, Stanley Havili is one of the most consistent players on the team yet he has hardly seen the ball because there isn't a back-up for him.

So even though he is one of USC’s best runners and receivers, Havili has only one rush and four catches heading into this week’s game at Minnesota.

"I never anticipated we would struggle the way we did Saturday night on offense," Kiffin said of USC’s 17-14 victory over Virginia. "I thought we would be able to move the ball without using him that much.

"It’s just a new way of having to think, and it almost backfired."

Kiffin said Havili also is "probably our best special-teams player," but the coaches aren’t using him there either for fear of injury.

Havili is a senior so you might as well let him go out in a blaze of glory. Give him his reps reps and let the chips fall where they may.

Its has been difficult enough to watch the defense struggle and we know that even Monte Kiffin is a little embarrassed at some of the play we have seen on the field but its still early yet as the team settles in. Anyone who thinks that this won't come together in time is nuts.

Lacking experience at key positions in Kiffin's famed "Tampa 2" defense, USC struggled in its opener at Hawaii, which runs the type of spread passing attack Kiffin rarely faced in the NFL.

After surrendering 36 points and 588 yards – including 459 passing – in Week 1, the Trojans rebounded against Virginia last week. But allowing 14 points and 340 yards – including 150 rushing – hardly left Kiffin satisfied.

"It was improved," he said of the defense. "It's still not good enough. It's got to be better."

A brief history lesson suggests better days are to come.

It is simply going to take some time.

Here is a little bit from Monte on Minnesota QB Adam Weber...

Golden Gophers quarterback Adam Weber either knows what he’s doing or he’s been fooling his coaches for a long time. Weber is the second-most experienced quarterback in the nation behind Houston’s Case Keenum and he holds the Gophers’ career records for completions, attempts, touchdowns and -- Kiffin didn’t mention this one -- interceptions.

Weber’s quarterback efficiency rating is a stellar 145, though Minnesota’s first two opponents have been Middle Tennessee State and South Dakota. So, how did they lose to South Dakota, a mediocre second-subdivision team?

"They got in a shootout and lost, but I’m telling you, offensively, they’re a god-danged good football team," Kiffin said. "This team last week was pretty good. This team’s better. I’m not making this stuff up. They put it on tape. Look at the tape. Look at the stats."

After what we have seen in the past two weeks I am not assuming anything this weekend.

We will find out on Saturday...

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