We’ve been fielding your questions for our Mailbag Monday feature, so let’s celebrate the start of the work week by getting right into the burning topics of USC Football, as editor Michael Castillo answers your questions.
Steve (@scurryn) from Twitter asks: If they play in the Pac-12 championship game and a bowl, would USC be the first team to play a 15-game schedule?
Michael: After doing a fair bit of research, should that scenario play out, the Trojans would be the third team to play a 15-game schedule. BYU went 14-1 in 1996, while Kansas State went 11-4 in 2003. And it’s worth noting, that ironically, BYU’s 15th game ended up coming against Kansas State in the 1997 Cotton Bowl. Go figure. In the years they played 15, both teams played season-opening games to begin their season, in addition to playing in their conference championship games, followed by bowl games. Participants of games like the Pigskin Classic, the Kickoff Classic and the BCA Classic were granted an extra game, because they were scheduled one week prior to the beginning of the season. In addition to that, BYU and Kansas State benefited from an additional game by different means. BYU played at Hawaii to grant an additional game, while Kansas State got help from the calendar. In 2003, due to an extra weekend at the end of August, all of college football was able to play 12 games instead of the then-commonplace 11 games. The result of the extra games meant that BYU and K-State started their campaigns on August 24th and 23rd, respectively. Starting next year with the College Football Playoff, playing 15 games in a season is a likely feat for the two participants of the national championship game, should they play in a conference championship.
Ryan(@LARyanInPHX) from Twitter asks: Will USC be more like the 2008 Trojans or the 2012 Trojans?
Michael: Neither. Both of those teams had full returning units poised to win a national championship, and they played out their seasons very differently. The way it looks now, this USC team looks an awful bit like 2011 bunch. Just like then, the Trojans enter the season with a talented quarterback –whoever that may be– that is unproven, along a single stud receiver, a banged up senior running back, some new faces on defense and a very backloaded schedule. USC opens the season with an offensive gameplan that everyone in the world knows is coming, which is Wittek/Kessler/Browne to Lee, repeated over and over and over again. The 2011 team was the same way, with the highly concentrated Barkley to Woods connection early in the season, which saw Robert Woods set a record for receptions in the season opener against Minnesota. USC used a string of three home games early in the season to struggle with a one-dimensional offense, slowly work Marqise Lee in as a second option in the passing game and find ways to add more and more dimensionality as the season progressed. This year, with Woods gone, it’ll be much of the same, as they’ll need time to groom Nelson Agholor, Darreus Rogers or Victor Blackwell as the yang to Lee’s ying. And like in 2011, they have a manageable early schedule with three straight September home games leading into a dangerous road tilt with Arizona State that could exploit a weakness in the USC defense. Sound familiar?
Monte from Facebook asks: Why isn’t more emphasis put on recruiting cornerbacks?
Michael: There is, it just has been a position that hasn’t panned out for USC for a long time, as it’s literally the only position in which the Trojans have never had an All-American. When Pete Carroll got here in 2001, his goal was to turn USC into Cornerback-U and that never happened. Instead, the Trojans have had a slew of talented safeties like Troy Polamalu, Taylor Mays, Kevin Ellison and T.J. McDonald, three of which were recruited by Carroll. Under Kiffin, cornerback has definitely been a position of emphasis, but the on-field play has yet to show it, other than Nickell Robey’s three seasons. In 2011, Kiffin had a hole at corner opposite of Robey and he went out to get Isiah Wiley, who was fantastic before running into academic issues. In 2012, they signed Kevon Seymour and Devian Shelton and they got Chris Hawkins as an early enrollee this season. Looking ahead, the No. 1 player on USC’s recruiting board is a corner, Adoree’ Jackson, whom the Trojans are believed to be the favorite for at this point. So the problem isn’t that USC is looking to stock other positions, but that they’re getting burned both in recruiting and development. Jalen Ramsey, a five-star corner, was committed to USC for seven months before de-committing on the eve of Signing Day this February, handcuffing the Trojans. They spent months and months prioritizing Ramsey and not Priest Willis or Jermaine Kelly. Had the Trojans not been under recruiting sanctions, you would have to imagine that they might have snagged one of those guys, in addition to Hawkins.
James(@jarquin_james) from Twitter asks: Is there a possibility that Ty Isaac plays wide receiver this year with low numbers at the position, since we have too many running backs?
Michael: Probably not. He’s too big and physical of a running back to give up to the receiving corps, though reduced numbers could certainly warrant more packages with tight ends and backs split wide, including Isaac. Should there be more injuries at receiver, if anyone, look for Su’a Cravens to get a shot at receiver before Isaac, much like Marqise Lee being used sparingly in the secondary.
Eric(@Afrojazzeric) from Twitter asks: Will Silas Redd get over 1,000 yards this year?
Michael: If Redd can stay healthy, there’s no reason he shouldn’t eclipse that mark. Just mathematically, USC plays 13 games –up to 15 games with a Pac-12 Championship Game appearance– and he averaged 75 yards per game last season, despite having three carries in two of those games. That puts him just about at the 1,000-yard mark. In Lane Kiffin’s time at USC, he’s shown a dependency on sticking to game plans and not deterring from them, which has kept him to a very two-back system, making Redd all the more likely get the bulk of the reps given his seniority and past success. Plus, without Robert Woods, the Trojans will need to run the ball more, at least initially. Look for Redd to put up similar yardage but somewhat fewer carries than his sophomore season at Penn State, in which he had 1,241 yards on 244 carries.
Mary from Facebook asks: What is the date for the Salute To Troy 2013?
Michael: A date has yet to be announced by the Trojan Athletic Fund. Here’s the website that you’ll want to check for updates, and we’ll be sure to tweet out the date when we hear it.
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