How can the Trojans survive without a bye week? What counts as a failure in 2017? RoT’s USC football (and basketball) mailbag seeks answers.
Spring break put USC football’s spring camp on hold while the Trojan basketball team took center stage this past week in the NCAA Tournament.
As a result, more eyes than usual have turned to the hardwood, though there are always offseason debates to settle around the football team.
What does the future hold for both football and basketball? Let’s open the ‘bag…
QUESTION: How can USC survive the season without a bye week? Managing the time of starters? — Santino
ANSWER: We’ve mentioned in the past how USC’s lack of a bye week shouldn’t get in the way when it comes to the Trojans’ Pac-12 title hopes, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges.
The simplest, easiest and most on-point answer isn’t a very satisfying one: USC can survive with a bit of luck on their side.
Every team deals with wear-and-tear during the season. The inability to take a week off will only exacerbate that problem, but a touch of injury luck can make all the difference.
Of course, teams can make their own luck as well. Ivan Lewis’ conditioning program will be a key factor in keeping the Trojans fit.
USC’s coaches must also be conscious of their role in preventing the physical breakdown of the team by taking advantage of depth and substitutions.
Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast is well-known for his small rotations, but with a squad full of players in Year 2 in his system, he should have greater trust in back ups at every position.
Rotation can solve two problems. First, it will allow starters to rest and take pressure off their bodies. At the same time, it will give back ups more experience, so if an injury happens ahead of them, they’ll be better equipped to fill in as needed.
QUESTION: Do Metu & Boatwright stay? What do you think? Be honest. — @sportscentral00
ANSWER: The gut reaction to that question is…no.
Both Chimezie Metu and Boatwright have been talked about as second-round draft picks, which might be enough incentive for them to take the plunge and try their luck in the pros. It was for Julian Jacobs and Nikola Jovanovic, who made the same decision last year as fringe prospects.
Still, the example of those two may work in USC’s favor, as Jacobs and Jovanovic went unpicked in the NBA Draft. With two former teammates playing in the D-League after leaving early, Metu and Boatwright may have incentive to stick around and ensure first-round security for themselves.
Head coach Andy Enfield subtly made that point talking about their draft decisions following USC’s loss to Baylor in the NCAA Tournament, pointing out the Bears’ Johnathan Motley and how much he improved his stock by returning for his redshirt junior season.
QUESTION: With the Duke transfer and a good recruiting class coming in, what do you see as the ceiling for next years team? — @toptrojanfan
ANSWER: The Duke transfer you’re referring to, Derryck Thornton, was a five-star prospect coming out of high school and the No. 3 point guard in the nation.
The good recruiting class includes four-star guards Charles O’Bannon Jr. and Jordan Usher, as well as center Victor Eyaelunmo.
If nothing else, those quality additions ensure Enfield’s USC isn’t ready to let up from here.
Any question about next year’s ceiling, however, has to involve the question of Boatwright and Metu’s return.
If those two return, the Trojans could legitimately push for the Pac-12 title on the strength of their depth alone. After all, the only regular contributor USC is slated to lose is forward Charles Buggs. The team that won two games at this year’s NCAA Tournament, plus talents like Thornton, O’Bannon and Usher, makes for a mouthwatering roster.
If Boatwright and Metu depart, the Trojans may be looking at a another scrap for a tournament bid and one, maybe two, tournament wins. Losing both forwards would put a major strain on USC’s front court, forcing sophomores Nick Rakocevic and Harrison Henderson into bigger roles than they are reasonably prepared to handle.
QUESTION: For football Is a trip to PAC 12 championship in 2017 but a loss = failure for the season? — Dave G.
ANSWER: I wouldn’t go that far. Context matters heavily here.
More from Reign of Troy
- Markese Stepp enters transfer portal intending to leave USC football
- USC football’s Alijah Vera-Tucker declares for NFL Draft
- USC football adds Xavion Alford as transfer from Texas
- USC Podcast: RoT Radio Ep. 396 on the Football Season’s Fallout
- Talanoa Hufanga named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, USC football with five first-teamers
If USC makes it to the Pac-12 Championship Game as a 12-0 South Division Champion, only to lose a hard-fought game against an equally strong Washington, that’s not a failure of a season. Disappointing, to be sure. But not a failure.
If, however, USC sneaks into the Pac-12 title game at 8-4, winning on tie-breakers in a crowded South Division field and then loses in embarrassing fashion? Yes, it would be safe to call that a failure of a season, considering the expectations built up this offseason.
QUESTION: How is Kenny Bigelow looking? –Andrew H.
ANSWER: Bigelow, USC’s most senior defensive lineman, is not participating in Spring Camp. He’s restricted to individual work as he continues to come back from the ACL injury he suffered during camp last year.
It’s been a long process for Bigelow, so it’s safe to say the Trojans are being cautious with his return.
QUESTION: Rank ’em and show your work: Taj Gibson, Harold Miner, Jordan McLaughlin, Sam Clancy. Also, bonus question…best dunker between Miner, Chimezie Metu, Jeff Trepaigner or Lorenzo Orr? –Kyle.
ANSWER (via RoT’s Michael Castillo): Phew, this is a tough one. First things first, McLaughlin is fourth straight up. That’s neither a knock on him or a sign that he couldn’t compete with the others. But in the pantheon of great USC point guards, he’s got players like Brandon Granville ahead of him. Not to mention, he’ll be a senior in 2018 and still has room to grow.
Next, Miner is the greatest, most talented USC basketball player who has ever lived. (As long as we’re not counting Quincy McCall, though.)
Yes, he never reached his Baby Jordan hype in the NBA, but Miner was a transcendent player while with the Trojans, and his dominant 1992 season had the school feeling like they belonged on the national landscape for the first time since the pre-Wooden Era.
He averaged a school-record 26.3 points per game, won Sports Illustrated’s National Player of the Year award and is the only Trojan in the last 40 years to take home first-team All-American honors.
Miner’s No. 23 is retired for a reason, as the school’s all-time leader in points and scoring average, while his 19 games of at least 30 points is more than double anyone else.
Now it’s time to settle who slots in at No. 2: Gibson or Clancy?
Gibson was the unheralded heart of the Tim Floyd era and had the front court presence to enable erratic playmakers like Nick Young, O.J. Mayo and DeMar DeRozan to thrive outside.
As a freshman during the Trojans’ 2007 run to the Sweet 16, he was borderline dominant. In USC’s classic win over Kevin Durant’s Texas team in the Round of 32, Gibson wrangled in 14 rebounds. He’s the Trojans’ career leader in blocks with 253 in just three seasons, and his 57.97 career field goal percentage is second all-time behind only Jeff McMillan.
Then there’s Clancy, the Pac-12’s Player of the Year in 2002 and a second-team All-American. He was a monster inside despite his relatively diminutive stature at 6-foot-7, amassing 17 double doubles as a senior. His 20 blocks in five career NCAA Tournament games serve as ample evidence of his stout defensive efforts.
A fixture on USC’s all-time lists, Clancy ranks second in rebounds and blocked shots, and sits third in career scoring.
Deciding between the two is tough. But let’s give the nod ever so slightly to Gibson.
Not only was he far more efficient on the offensive end –Clancy only had a 49.5 career field goal percentage– Gibson did more with less around him, with new accompanying forwards on a yearly basis. He was the prime example for how Floyd’s defensive system could thrive in college basketball.
For the record, it’s splitting hairs and you can’t go wrong with either big man.
As for the best dunker? Jeff Trepagnier. Duh. (Click the link. You’re welcome.)