Who will be the starting safeties at the end of the year? What hypothetical trades to UCLA and Notre Dame make sense? RoT’s USC Football mailbag seeks answers.
Deep in the heart of the offseason, what better exercise is there than to dream about where USC Football will be at the end of the season or pose hypotheticals about trading with hated rivals.
That’s the track this week’s mailbag heads in, so without further ado, here’s some answers…
QUESTION: Who do you think will be the starting safeties in the last game of the season? (Assuming no injuries) — @LAsportsdude1
ANSWER: This is a bit of a loaded question because the answer will say a lot about how the Trojans got there.
If it’s the two incoming freshmen Bubba Bolden and Isaiah Pola-Mao, is that a reflection of young talent or the deficiencies of more veteran players?
Without getting into a bunch of hypotheticals, the safe answer is to say USC’s starting safeties at the end of the year will be the same ones they started the year with — Marvell Tell and Chris Hawkins.
SEE ALSO: Predicting USC’s 2017 Depth Chart
That’s probably an outcome that would bode well for the Trojans, with Tell and Hawkins serving as veteran and reliable figures on the defense.
Of course, Bolden and Pola-Mao, or the likes of Ykili Ross or Jamel Cook, could also make a push for a starting job, but those prospects still have a lot to prove before that becomes a predictable option.
QUESTION: As USC has not shared the alternative plans for the Coliseum remodel, how do we know if the one presented is the best??— @DRCason51
ANSWER: We don’t. At the very least, the one presented is the one USC decided was the best. Does that make it the best one for the fans? Not necessarily.
Like any big decision involving millions of dollars, USC will have looked at tons of options, weighed the pros and cons of each and settled on the one that made the most sense from the most angles. That gets to the heart of the matter — How did USC define best? Or best for who?
QUESTION: Who on defense would you most like to see blitz more? Bonus… who is the defenses’ best blitz defender? — @SmurfFightOn
ANSWER: The first name that comes to mind is Porter Gustin, who’s power and speed make him a devastating pass rusher off the edge.
The more USC gets Gustin after the quarterback, the better. But does that count if his Predator position is a bit of a hybrid defensive end?
Thinking about it in terms of players whose main job isn’t to get into the backfield, it would be fun to see Clancy Pendergast get creative by sending nickelbacks Ajene Harris and Jamel Cook into the backfield from time to time.
ANSWER: The tough part of this is keeping it fair — or identifying players who would make USC that much better for the cost.
Two of USC’s biggest concerns in 2017 are on the offensive line and at linebacker, so those positions feel like a good place to start.
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As it happens, Notre Dame returns four starters on the offensive line, including senior right tackle Mike McGlinchey, who would immediately settle USC’s search for Zach Banner’s replacement.
Grabbing perhaps the Irish’s best offensive lineman wouldn’t be cheap, but the Trojans could offer up pass rush help like Oluwole Betiku plus a promising young running back like Vavae Malepeai.
Linebacker help could come from UCLA’s Kenny Young. The Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list linebacker would pair nicely with Cameron Smith, instantly transforming USC’s inside linebacker unit from a potential problem to the best in the conference.
The trade off? UCLA could use some targets for the now-healthy Josh Rosen, while USC has more depth at receiver than they know what to do with. Would it be worth it to send Michael Pittman and Velus Jones across town? Or would the Bruins require a bigger prize like Deontay Burnett?