Another season of USC football is coming up. The team will open up fall camp to prepare for the 2019 season. During the off-season the Trojans underwent numerous changes to their coaching staff and went through spring practice building their team identity. The opening of fall camp also means brand new storylines and questions that will finally be answered.
Graham Harrell and the USC Offense
A lot of talk has surrounded the USC offense. Following the last season’s poor performance, USC head coach Clay Helton made several changes to the coaching staff which included bringing in Graham Harrell to run the Trojans offense. Harrell mentioned simplifying the offense and allowing the players to “play” opposed to trying to out scheme teams. During the spring many saw a sample size of what’s to come, now he’ll have a full squad to work with during camp. Senior wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. had high praise for new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell and his offense. One key factor that he mentions is how simple and easy it is to pick up, stating that it allow’s the players to play faster and the new players to earn more opportunities to see the field and produce. One question is how will Harrell truly utilize the talent on offense and is it truly an “Air Raid” as many believe?
Also how will the running backs be utilized. It is hard to believe and see Harrell abandon the running game. Vavae Malepeai, Stephen Carr, and Markese Stepp will all have roles to play in the offense. The simplified offense will bring some success to an offense that failed to find a true identity last season.
From what’s being said, the starting quarterback position is indeed open. Graham Harrell is want to see who can really run his offense. Matt Fink, Jack Sears, and JT Daniels all shown that they can run Harrell’s offense while freshman Kedon Slovis has been impressive during the spring. However, will USC see a new starting quarterback when they take the field against Fresno State week one?
JT Daniels didn’t have the best season last year, however he’s currently on the watch list for the O’Brien and Maxwell Award and started 11 of the 12 games. Players don’t make list just because. Jack Sears showed a sample size of what he can bring to the table in his lone start against Arizona State. Harrell loves Sears ability to bring it in a game setting, however the redshirt sophomore has to tackle his inconsistency issues. Matt Fink brings mobility and has helped the USC offense move the ball in numerous ways last season. Like Sears, Fink also battles consistency issues. Will this truly be a quarterback battle where Graham Harrell will pick his guy?
One of the biggest question marks coming into the season is the USC secondary. The Trojans will have to replace 5 players at defensive back with four of them being starters. The cornerback position will open an open battle, however look for Greg Johnson and Olaijah Griffin to receive first team reps in fall camp on the outsides. The nickel cornerback position will be a key spot area to watch. Chase Williams impressed with his solid performance against Notre Dame last season while Issac Taylor Stewart has also caught some eyes during spring camp. Freshman Briton Allen could rotate between nickel and safety while Four star cornerback Max Williams is making huge strides following a knee injury that ended his high school career last year.
Talanoa Hufanga and Isaiah Pola-Mao will have the two safety spots locked down. The biggest concerns will be their health as two are coming off of surgeries that sidelined them for an extended period of time. Pola-Mao had shoulder surgery that ended his season last year while Hufanga has had two broken collarbone injuries that required surgery, with the most recent one happening during spring camp. Knowing how the team usually eases players into the rotation following injuries, look for CJ Pollard and Chase Williams to see some reps at the position.
One of the best things about fall camp in College Football is seeing all of the new freshmen in action. USC fans will get a chance to see the full 2019 recruiting class. Plus such as Kyle Ford, Adonis Otey, Jayden Williams will get a chance to come in and compete right away as USC Trojans. The early enrollees such as Max Williams and Kedon Slovis will take the opportunity to build off of spring camp. One of the biggest questions is the eligibility of wide receiver Bru McCoy and cornerback Chris Steele. Two of the incoming freshmen transferred to USC after committing to their previous choices or in McCoy’s case returning to the Trojans after leaving for Texas. The waiver for the immediate eligibility has been sent to the NCAA, however it is unknown when an answer will be given to the Trojans.
Responding from the 2018 season
2018 was the ultimate worst case scenario for the Trojans. The team went 5-7 and hit historic lows for the first time since 2000. They also failed to qualify for a bowl since that time frame too. Eyes are now on the Trojans to see how they respond and bounce back from last year. During spring camp there was a different vibe around practices and a different edge to the team. Even head coach Clay Helton started becoming a little more aggressive himself. At Pac-12 media day seniors Christian Rector and Michael Pittman Jr. discussed how they want to turn things around and play towards their potential. Can that be done remains to be seen.
USC will be challenged in the first five games of the season, getting Fresno State, Stanford, and Utah at home and going on the road to face BYU and Washington before getting hitting their bye week. Even after the bye week they face rival Notre Dame in South Bend, where they haven't beaten the Irish since 2011. The players and coaches now have the chance to really set the tone during fall camp and right the ship.