Transfers reveal depth of USC football’s major culture problem

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images /

The recent rash of transfers out of USC football, with two more announced on Friday, reveal the depth of the Trojans’ culture problem.

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USC football has a transfer problem. And that transfer problem is a sign of bigger issues. Because that problem is a direct reflection of the Trojans’ culture problem.

On Friday, at least two more Trojans reportedly put their names in the transfer portal. Greg Johnson and Velus Jones Jr. ballooned the number of departures from USC over the past four months to eight.

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No less than eight players have opted to leave USC since the end of the 2018 season. And that’s not counting the two—Ykili Ross and Je’Quari Godfrey—who left just before the start of the campaign.

All had their individual reasons for leaving, but those reasons become irrelevant when it comes to the overall picture these departures paint of USC football.

These latest personnel losses are linked to the release of an internal pre-Spring Camp depth chart, according to

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The entire situation reflects poorly on everyone involved, from coaches and administrators down to the players themselves.

If players are so shaken by their standing on a pre-practice depth chart, then it says something about them. Being willing to compete is the key to success. Being unafraid of competition is a vital trait. Transferring before the start of Spring Camp suggests those traits are absent.

What better time to improve your standing than by letting competition fuel you through camp? What better way to prove your worth to coaches than by working even harder to prove you are being undervalued?

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That’s not to let any one of USC’s coaches off the hook.

Either they are playing favorites and giving players no choice but to seek opportunities elsewhere. Or they simply aren’t fostering a true sense of competition. Or they have not identified the right competitive personalities in recruiting.

Or, worst of all, they have completely lost the faith of their players to the point where transferring seems like a better option than slogging through another disappointing season with lacking leadership.

Either way, it doesn’t look good for the Trojans.

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One day, every deficiency of the current era of USC football won’t be compared in some way to the Pete Carroll era. But today is not that day.

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Competition was the bedrock of Carroll’s success at USC. Everything in the program revolved around it. The culture of Pete Carroll’s USC was competition.

That has not been the culture of USC in recent years. And it shows.

Clay Helton and company would do well to recognize that competition is the only way to dig themselves out of this hole. If that means losing players who aren’t going to cut it, then maybe it will be worth it to see so many go. But that theory will only hold water if every Trojan commits to embracing a more competitive mentality.

The 2019 campaign is becoming quite the zero-sum game. Either this is the cost of changing a culture, or the players are right to jump ship.