USC football mailbag: Do the Trojans have room for Chris Steele?

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

Does USC football have room to add Florida transfer Chris Steele? How many wins does Clay Helton need in 2019 to keep his job? The mailbag is open.

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The transfer portal has dominated talk around college football this offseason, so it’s no surprise that the portal has become a source of intrigue for USC football this week.

That and more occupies this week’s mailbag:

Q: Does the scholarship math and transfer portal math work out that we could even get Steele? @dgeske

A: The big story on Thursday was five-star cornerback Chris Steele’s decision to transfer away from Florida after less than a semester in Gainesville.

First and foremost, tremendous credit should be given to Steele, who reportedly entered the transfer portal because of the Gator’s handling of his roommate, quarterback Jalon Jones. Steele told coaches he was uncomfortably rooming with Jones, but they would not accommodate his request to change dorms until the summer, according to Zach Abolverdi of the Gainesville Sun.

The fact that Jones is transferring from Florida after being accused of sexual assault hints at the nature of Steele’s objections to his roommate.

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Brenda Tracy, a gang-rape survivor, activist and founder of the “Set the Expectation” campaign, tweeted about how Steele “did exactly what I asked all the players to do – speak up & hold each other accountable.” She spoke to recruits at Nike’s The Opening camp last year. Steele himself retweeted her message.

With that background in place, there’s no question that USC should be willing to make another run at Steele, who had been committed to the Trojans before signing with Florida in December.

But the question is about whether or not USC will have room for him.

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That gets more complicated.

When it comes to overall scholarship limits, the Trojans should have room. If the likes of Velus Jones, Josh Imatorbhebhe and Matt Fink follow through on transferring away, and players who did not participate in Spring Camp like Keyshawn “Pie” Young and Daniel Imatorbbhebhe don’t return, USC is likely to enter Fall Camp with 80 scholarship players on the books.

However, schools are also limited to 25 yearly additions, and that’s where USC may be out of luck.

The Trojans added 25 players in the class of 2019. Ten of those enrolled early at USC, making it possible to count them against 2018’s initial scholarship numbers instead of this year’s. It’s just not clear how many of those were counted backwards.

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USC had a spot open for wide receiver Puka Nacua, before he flipped and signed with Washington. That spot has since been claimed by offensive tackle transfer Drew Richmond.

That means it’s very possible the Trojans don’t have a place for Steele. If they do, pursuit of Steele will make it very clear.

Q: What win/loss number that will be breaking point to get Helton outta here after this season? — @torigianlaw

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A: The more relevant question may be, how many wins will it take to win the Pac-12 South?

USC fans may not be terribly enthusiastic about a 7-5 season, but it could easily net the Trojans the division crown. After all, a 6-3 record in conference has been sufficient to win the South three times since the Pac-12 was formed.

If USC goes to the Pac-12 title game, Helton’s job is almost certainly safe, whether his record is 7-5 or 10-2.

If the Pac-12 South title isn’t on the table, then Lynn Swann will have a decision on his hands.

But brace yourselves Trojan fans, Swann will be able to argue there’s been improvement at 7-5.

Q: What’s the most obscure fact you know about usc’s fb rivals? — @SalvadorVieyra1

A: Here’s one for UCLA: The Pac-12 record for fumbles and fumbles lost in a game belongs to the Bruins, who committed 11 and lost eight against USC in 1975.

As for Notre Dame, the record for most touchdowns in a game scored against the Irish belongs to USC’s Anthony Davis with six in 1972.