The Duds from the USC Spring Game:
The Running Game
If you take out Malepeai, the Trojans’ backs gained a collective 42 yards on 19 carries for a 2.21 yards per carry average.
Yes, the offensive line is as patchwork as a misshapen quilt due to injuries. And yes, USC was working on situational drills including being backed up in their own end zone and extensive RPO drills giving the defense an advantage.
But it’s an abysmal clip for a team that rushed so well at times last season.
Of course, the lesson is that the Trojans have to find a way to (1) get healthy on the offensive line and (2) run the ball efficiently without Zach Banner leading the way at right tackle. Such improvements should start to develop during fall camp once the line can gel and find a starting five.
They can only get better from here.
The Spring Game Format
It’s an annual gripe now, but the USC spring game has suffered greatly from a lack of an engaging format. This year, as seen in the past, injuries wrecked havoc with the game. They created what Clay Helton called a ‘practice-like’ situational-focused event, limited to 62 charted live plays. And that was more than expected.
NCAA rules don’t help either, as spring games are counted as one of 15 allotted spring practice sessions, and only a two-hour made-for-TV window is a limitation.
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But a desirable on-field product would be aided by both rules reform and simple injury luck. Helton said earlier in the week that he’d ideally like to play a true spring game, and if the Trojans could, it would lessen the impact of it counting as a brief Day 15 of spring camp.
Nonetheless, in years like 2017 when injuries play a role in limiting action, why not get a creative? Perhaps offense vs. defense or first-team vs. second-team matchplay based on existing overtime rules. Maybe a four-team 7-on-7 tournament, or an alumni game.
Numbers and injury concerns are always going to play a role, and USC is never going to draw the near 80,000-fan crowds Nebraska gets. But in a perfect world, consistency and intrigue would go a long way in making the spring game watchable, especially if the coaches didn’t have to worry about it counting as their 15th spring session.