USC Football’s win over UNLV reveals three key areas to keep improving

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images /

USC Football was up and down in their 43-21 season-opening win over UNLV at the Coliseum, which leaves Clay Helton’s team with some homework.

USC vs. UNLV. Studs & Duds

Coming into Week 1, there were many questions around USC. How would JT Daniels perform in his first game as the starter? Would the offensive line and special teams improve? Would they look like a team with an identity or would they just call plays?

We got some answers.

Daniels is a poised player who will grow and has the potential to be elite, the offensive line and special teams look nearly identical to last year, and the offensive play-calling is still suspect.

The true freshman quarterback finished the game by completing 63 percent of his passes for 282 yards and a touchdown. Not bad at all for a young man who should be beginning his senior year in high school.

However, he did make some ill-advised throws and was nearly picked off multiple times. In order for him to be successful against Stanford and Texas, he will need to make fewer mistakes.

Luckily for Daniels, he did show that his connection with Amon-Ra St. Brown is as good now as it was at Mater Dei High School. But he must develop similar chemistry with other receivers, as defensive coordinators could opt to double cover St. Brown.

RELATED: Trojans Survive Week 1 Yips in Win Over UNLV

Having said that, if the offensive line does not improve, it won’t matter. The UNLV defensive line didn’t have a player on it who would have gotten a USC offer out of high school, yet they were able to terrorize the Trojans at times.

If UNLV can do that, it is scary to think what Stanford, Texas, and others will be able to do.

Then there’s special teams. While they did have some bright spots, with Tyler Vaughns doing a fine job returning punts and Stephen Carr nearly returning a kickoff for a touchdown, they still struggled.

John Baxter’s unit continued to be plagued with penalties, and punter Reid Budrovich had a very inconsistent day.

All told, there’s three things Clay Helton and his staff must fix this week: Offensive line consistency, continuing to practice in a physical and up-tempo style, and making sure that Daniels looks to other receivers besides St. Brown.

If those mistakes are cleaned up —or at least significantly reduced– USC will have more than a fighting chance next week against Stanford in Palo Alto.