There is a lot of speculation about whether or not USC WR Damian Williams will play on Saturday.
USC's #1 receiver injured his ankle against ASU and he was missed in USC's loss to Stanford. Williams has been irreplaceable the past few seasons and his sure handedness has had a big impact on Matt Barkley as he has matured in his role as the starting QB.
The question right now is will Williams be able to take the field on Saturday?
Guys like Williams are competitors and they want to be in there.
USC wide receiver Damian Williams is probably doubtful for Saturday's game against UCLA because of the severity of his ankle sprain, according to sources. However, USC's coaches are optimistic he will try to play.
"He said it felt pretty good," wide receivers coach John Morton said Monday. "He did some stuff today."
Williams ran but did not do any cuts during a brief workout Monday afternoon. He will wear a brace today and attempt to participate in some of the practice.
"I think he's the kind of guy that will find a way," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "He's going to try. He'll find out how to adapt. He did it with a hamstring strain a couple weeks ago when he shouldn't have played."
But when they can't be in there it gives guys behind them on the depth chart a chance to step. The Offense has had some nice showings this season. Even with some guys out because of injury there have been some pretty good performances, so the talent is there. But is starts with Matt Barkley...he just needs to settle down and get back into the groove like he was earlier in the season. He has the supporting cast around him so he should be able to make some plays...he needs to it this weekend.
Ronald Johnson will once again be the go to guy.
If Damian Williams can’t play Saturday, USC most likely will need a big game from Ronald Johnson to defeat UCLA.
Those performances have been few and far between in a season Johnson has found to be less than satisfying.
Since returning from a broken clavicle, the junior receiver has 18 catches for 222 yards and two touchdowns in five games. But aside from his six-catch, 99-yard, one-TD performance vs. Oregon State, Johnson hasn’t made the impact he’d hoped to make.
"Up and down," Johnson said when asked to describe his season so far. "Coming back was kind of difficult … just trying to get through it."
Johnson said he has felt a little bit "off" since returning, never quite capturing the focus or regaining the conditioning he had before getting hurt in the final preseason scrimmage.
"I’m not the same as I was before the season. That’s where I want to get to," he said.
There is no question he was missed in the first half of the season. Being the speed receiver added such a huge dimension to this offense. Brice Butler is getting in his groove and Brandon Carswell has shown us some nice things but this weekend these guys need to make ZERO mistakes.
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On defense it gets a little trickier.
The defense had some good performances as well but since the second half of the Notre Dame this defense has looked a lot different.
One of the players that has taken the most heat is middle linebacker Chris Galippo...
"At the end of the day, as young as we are and the fact we played six of nine games on the road, there was a lot of great stuff we did," Galippo said. "There are still lessons to be learned and there's so many things we can improve on. But we're doing our jobs on defense."
Galippo was listed as one of 16 Butkus Award semifinalists last month but that was before the linebacker struggled in losses to Oregon and Stanford.
He was not one of the five finalists named Friday for the award.
I could care less about the award...there is still a lot of football left to play.
This is a young defense but they had some good games earlier in the season, though some will say there really wasn't any competition against SJSU, and they wet the bed against UW, but it really has been spotty since ND.
But Galippo said he is pleased with his play this season.
"Personally, I've played pretty solid," Galippo said.
Galippo is physically worn down because he played without a backup who could spell him during games, a luxury afforded his predecessor, All-American Rey Maualuga.
Yes and no...this is Galippo's first season as the full-time starter and he is not playing at 100% with a couple of nagging injuries. Yes, he has not anyone to back him up like Rey had so it should be a surprise to anyone if he is a little bit spent.
Galippo has played almost every snap this season, but no, fatigue can't excuse everything.
While others among the Trojans' struggling front seven have been sidelined because of injuries or sat out plays because of rotations at their positions, Galippo has been on the field for nearly every meaningful snap this season.
That, of course, includes recent blowout losses against Oregon and Stanford, games in which the Trojans gave up a combined 716 rushing yards and 102 points.
So Galippo, a third-year sophomore and first-year starter, has been a focal point for scrutiny in the wake of Stanford's 55-21 rout at the Coliseum.
"The last thing I want to do is make up an excuse," he said. "You've just got to take it and treat it as a learning experience."
As noted above, Galippo is in a tough spot. But he has missed some plays he missed out there...there were plays where he has been out of position or where he overran some plays. Galippo still has some size issues he is a little on the average size but he has speed. Because he was Rey's back-up it should surprise no one that he didn't see a lot playing time last season, thus affecting his seasoning at the position. Next year I expect to see a big improvement in his level of play.
With all the talent SC lost on defense it really is hard to expect the players to play at the level we have been used to seeing. All four of USC's LB's that are in the NFL have had significant impact on the they teams they now play for. USC cannot be expected to replace that sort of production overnight.
I found this interesting...
More questions about the defense will await.
A main one: How could a unit that looked so good in the first half of the season play so poorly in the second?
Poor tackling has been an obvious issue, but inexperience, coaching decisions, injuries and a schedule that included six of the first nine games on the road also have taken a toll.
Former linebackers Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing and Kaluka Maiava, all NFL rookies, are among those who have called or texted Galippo.
"They're wondering what's up with us and stuff like that," said Galippo, who is second on the team with 60 tackles. "I think they know that we're young and know that we have lessons to learn. And somehow we've got to learn them -- whether that's someone telling you or whether you've got to find out for yourself."
How quickly Rey and Cush forget...I don't think anyone will forget how tough they had it in Rose Bowl against Texas. I can see why it is a distant memory to them.
It just takes time...