“Oh, oh, we’re halfway there!”: USC Trojans midseason review

Notre Dame was USC’s 7th game this season, leaving only 5 more for the Trojans as they are serving the last year of their post-season b

 So what have we learned from ‘SC this season? I’ll tell you:

1.    O-line isn’t as suspect as we thought it would be

We knew that there was talent on the O-line, we just didn’t know how well it would mesh. Judging by the improvements that we have seen in the last two games especially, their development is going according to plan. The Real Deal Matt Kalil has been the savior for this bunch, and will undoubtedly have a fruitful pro career ahead of him. He could get drafted on his ability to block FGs and PATs alone! (He has 4 on the season). Earlier this season the linemen definitely looked young an inexperienced, and were not dominating lesser defensive lines the way they should have. In spite of that, they have been excellent at protecting Matt Barkley, only giving up 4 sacks thus far. On that note, their pass protection is much better than their run protection, but the problems with the running game can be solved by establishing a solid starting running back.

2.    Running game has left much to be desired

One of the biggest flaws in the Lane Kiffin regime (and in the later years of Pete Carroll, to be honest) is that there has never been an established running back. Think about it: since Reggie Bush graduated, no 5-star running back has been able to establish himself as a star. Marc Tyler, Joe McKnight, C.J. Gable, and now Dillon Baxter have all had to deal with 15-carry games, and haven’t been allowed schematically to establish themselves as a force. Because of this, the offensive line suffers as well, and it becomes one big cycle of ineptitude.

3.    Power-I?

USC used to be known for its aggressive, dominant running game by way of the Power scheme. They used to just shove it down opponents’ throats knowing that nobody could stop them. We haven’t seen much of that this season. As detailed above, the running back corps hasn’t been the greatest while the young wide receivers have been shining. I personally would not like to see USC go to a more pass heavy offense, but based on the way things look now with future Trojan legends in Robert Woods and Marquis Lee, that very well might be the case.

4.    Stanley Havili’s presence is missed much more than was considered

Of all the areas of concern for ‘SC that were discussed at the beginning of the season, replacing Stanley Havili at fullback was talked about the least.  And man, has ‘SC REALLY missed Havili. Havili, arguably the most productive part of the Trojans backfield last year, very often put up points for the Trojans, but his blocking capabilities have yet to replicated by Rhett Ellison—who started the season at fullback, but has since returned to his natural position of tight end—or Ross Cummings. Without this force, the run game has obviously suffered. It will be interesting to see how the Trojans continue to compensate for this loss, or if they just scrap the running game all together and have Matt Barkley just spread defenses out with the sheer volume of talent on the outside.

5.    Robert Woods is the TRUTH

It’s almost unfair how much press Robert Woods gets, but you can’t say the man doesn’t deserve it. He is having an unreal sophomore season, putting up record-breaking stats for the Trojans like it’s his job. He has 72 receptions for 902 yards and 8 touchdowns. He’s averaging 12.5 yards per reception, with a long of 82. Opposing secondaries have to work to contain him, and even then he finds a way to get open. Even when he’s not getting to the endzone, his presence alone allows Barkley to hit other targets. In deciding between the lesser of two evils—leaving emerging star Marquis Lee open or Woods—most teams are going to blanket Woods. So basically, even when Woods isn’t putting points on the board, he is indirectly putting them up anyway, by creating opportunities for other weapons. SC is guaranteed his services for at least another year, and barring injury he will be a Heisman frontrunner and the undisputed best receiver in college football heading in to next season.

6.    Position switches have been key to success

The two best things Kiffin did for the defense were putting Devon Kennard back at his natural position of defensive end, and moving Dion Bailey down from safety to linebacker. Bailey is leading the team in tackles with 54 (32 solo), also has two picks and a forced fumble on the season. Kennard’s experiment at middle linebacker didn’t go so well in the eyes of many, but putting him back at d-line has been a great call. With his speed and rushing capabilities coupled with the terror that is Nick Perry and the solid, consistent force in Wes Horton, these three ends have the ability to wreak havoc on run games. The defense looks much more stable and capable with these changes.

7.    The secondary can indeed stop a nosebleed

When the defense steps on the field, I no longer think to myself, “Oh boy, the other team is about to score.” This crew has come such a long way from being one that gets bombed on like London in the 1940′s, to a unit that can move an offense off the field in clutch situations. The corners still have some serious depth issues, but

Topics: C.J. Gable, Chris Claiborne, Chris Galippo, Clay Matthews, Devon Kennard, Dillon Baxter, Dion Bailey, Hayes Pullard, Joe McKnight, Lamar Dawso, Lane Kiffin, Marc Tyler, Marqise Lee, Matt Barkley, Matt Kalil, Nick Perry, Reggie Bush, Rey Maualuga, Rhett Ellison, Robert Woods, Ross Cummings, Stanley Havili, Trojans, Wes Horton, Willie McGinest

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