USC Football 2011: Some Things Need To Happen To Take Them From Good to Great
The pieces are lying on the table like a jigsaw puzzle. None are missing. They’re face up. All that is left is for the parts to adjoin so that the big picture can present itself.
Over the past two recruiting seasons, what has happened is pure success. Like every year, Troy landed some big-time athletes in 2010 and 2011, and lost some as well. This is no surprise. Even ultra-great recruiters Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron know they won’t get every kid, which is why there are always more offers than signees. Nevertheless, the players on the roster collectively make up the definition of solid.
So, in keeping with the main point, let’s cut to the chase.
The Signal Caller
From SC Playbok
First of all, Matt Barkley has to find a way to have a phenomenal season.
The kid is in his junior season, with two full years of experience behind him. Junior year is the year for most guys to breakout, especially when they come in as talented and highly rated as Matt. As he goes this year, so will the Trojan offense. Barkley also has to stop those horrible decisions that lead to picks. He has no excuses to make those plays this year. He can’t force the ball and expect it to be acceptable when it’s in the opposing team’s hands.
Is this a lot of pressure on a 21 year old? No. Not with his credentials. This is what he was brought in to do on his way to the NFL.
Ground and Pound
The Trojan running game has to be more evident in every game. It cannot disappear (i.e. gain less than 100 yards on the ground in any competition).
Granted some linemen are gone, but there is more depth this year, even if that depth comes in the form of unproven freshmen recruits Aundrey Walker and Cyrus Hobbi and in 2-star junior college stars David Garness and Jeremy Galten. Whatever. They are bodies good enough for SC, and that is good enough to carve out triple digits on the ground each time the team hits the turf against its foe.
Marc Tyler is a senior with excellent skills and a big, fast body. Soma Vainuku will make some holes at fullback. Dillon Baxter is just plain amazing and ready to show himself. D.J. Morgan is a speedster in the likeness of LaMichael James. Pick a flavor. At Running Back U, all of them taste good.
The Big, The Bad and The Ugly
Speaking of linemen: The line just has to hold up. But that is shortchanging a very decent group of beefy boys.
The Trojans line has actually come together quite nicely. By fall, there will be enough bodies to throw in fresh legs during the course of a game. The level of play according to the athletes on the line is sufficient to keep Barkley throwing and Tyler/Baxter running. There are no excuses here.
Simple blocking and standard pass protecting are all this quite sufficient and considerably (though some may say moderately) talented group of giants will be asked to do. That will allow the playmakers like Woods, Farmer, Baxter, Prater and others to get the ball and make things happen.
"That’s easier said than done,” you say. Like I said: this is what needs to happen for a successful 2011. Remember, I never said the line has to be outstanding. I said they need to play consistently standard. That’s all.
Which Way Do I Go? Which Way Do I Go?
Call if, Lane
Pro-style or hybrid spread?
Why not both, Kiffin?
Much is at stake with abandoning the pro-style form. Too much. Many recruits go to SC because of the fact that they run what the NFL does, and every Division I player dreams of playing in the NFL. So, to ditch this style of “O” would mean to risk losing a reputation that is so dear to the university. No can do.
But this is not to say the offense can’t spread it out a little. One of the things the offense struggled with in 2010 was identity. It would be honest to say that the Trojans offensive identity could feasibly be a pro-form with spread capabilities/formations. It would be confusing and self-defeating to say that SC is only going to run the new hybrid spread or solely stick with a pro style, without making use of the number of athletes it has. Only is bad. Spread dominant is also a negative. The cornerstone is the pro-style formation, which includes, as a secondary form, the employment of a hybrid spread.
Kiffin needs to truly give this scoring machine an identity and energy. As much as I cannot stand Oregon’s gimmick system, I have to admit that its identity is clear and succinct, just like Auburn’s plan-of-attack was.
I hope Kiffin is serious when he intends to spread it out “a little” without losing the foundation and fundamentals.
Notice Where the Defense Is
Defense. No one can forget the defense. At times, the 2010 defense looked lost. Whatever system old Monte Kiffin wants to run, who cares! Just make sure it works.
The secondary is saturated with stellar athletes who are capable of not leaving receivers wide open or letting quarterbacks pick them apart so effortlessly. The only way the defense can move, as far as ranking is concerned, is up. So Monte, move them up, please.
Look at it this way. USC had some exciting games against Stanford, Washington and Notre Dame. If the defense moves up from the top 10 worst in the entire NCAA Division I ratings, even just a little, then that practically hauls Troy over the obstacle to get the victories in the tight games that come down to just one more stop during the course of a game.
C’mon, Monte, just a little better at least.
Just a Little Bit Closer
Close games. USC has to find a way to seal the game when it has chances to do so.
The field goal losses to Stanford and Washington could have been wins with defensive stops. The Oregon game was close until the fourth quarter. However, the game was arguably lost when Kiffin distracted his own quarterback into fumbling the snap that turned much needed momentum from SC to the Ducks.
Whatever the case is, the Trojans, from the secondary to the coaches, have to turn losses by three or less into victories. I include Notre Dame in the UW/Stanford slush pile. By doing so it means that USC could have legitimately turned an 8-5 campaign into an 11-2 juggernaut this past year, by making one more play here or there. Wow, huge difference.
This section is not casting blame on any part of the team. This slide is simply saying “find a way to win those games decided by a handful or less this year.” That’s what Auburn did in their run. That’s what is required to have a winning season of 10 or 11 wins.
Trap games. Is anyone else but me tired of seeing USC lose to Oregon State? Washington? That’s not even legal in my book of hypothetical scenarios.
We’re talking Oregon State and Washington, not elite teams by any means. Washington gets stoked to play Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. USC lollops through tunnels if they have to come out of any tunnel for a bowl game before January 1st. Oregon is always happy to be bowl eligible. USC is disappointed if it’s not eligible for the BCS championship following the final regular season game. Do you see the difference?
The talent level is not USC caliber. Period. There is no negotiating that point. So if the better talented team can simply execute, the games should be boring actually, with USC rolling to commanding victories.
Sure, these teams get all amped up for the big cardinal-and-gold machine to come into town. But USC should put these middle-of-the-road conference teams to bed, in their rightful place.
Marc Tyler said after the OSU loss: “We’re kids.” As if that excuses their team-wide brain cramps and performance underachievments.
USC cannot have any games where they want to be kids instead of kings of the gridiron.
He forced some big fumbles this past year
Turnovers. Would the defense please wrap with one hand and go for the ball with the other during tackling?
This is standard operating procedure for tackling in the modern century, but it was not too often I recall the opponents putting the ball on the carpet. In other words, the defense has to create more turnovers than last year. The defensive line should be in the backfield more this year, so this should not be too hard to make happen.
With 80 players on scholarship this fall, tackling should improve.
I cannot tell you how many times I waited for more takeaways during the game, something the defense forced or caused to go their way by creating some chaos or through a monster or skilled collision on the man with the ball.
The defense has to make the opposing offense feel their presence enough to a shake out a ball from their hands or force the quarterback into hasty passes. The defense has to make opposing offenses extremely uncomfortable with their schemes.
They did it to the prolific Trojan offense at times. So the favor can be returned in 2011.
Stop giving up the big plays on defense. Period. Gee whiz. This was so pathetic to watch at times.
Don't only stop big plays on defense, but make some plays on offense.
With the repertoire and bevy of offensive talent at Kiffin’s disposal, then the team should be going vertical more, not side to side. Barkley has a great arm and the team was passing east-west too much. This doesn’t mean launching the ball 50 yards ahead each down. It means playing more aggressively and stop trying to pathologize Barkley so much. “Matt just didn’t seem like he...” Kiffin said a couple of times regarding reasons he reigned Matt in and went to conservative play calling.
Let Matt and the offense continually play to win, not play not to lose.
Is There More?
Plenty to cheer for in 2011
Of course. But these are things I think USC can control and prepare themselves for to have success.