John Baxter Dismisses Obvious Problems

The penalty effectively killed the drive, pinning the Trojans at their 13-yard-line, as opposed to the 41. It only got worse from there, as BYU started the ensuing drive at midfield and took just three plays to score a go-ahead touchdown.

It was a costly mistake for a team that’s grown accustomed to such backbreaking errors on special teams over the last two seasons. But when asked about that penalty — and the state of USC’s special teams units, in general — special teams coach John Baxter was generally dismissive.

“Here’s the deal,” Baxter said when asked about that critical penalty, “that’s for the head coach to deal with. There’s no place for that.”

It wasn’t the only question over special teams that Baxter shrugged off. When asked about a wedge penalty assessed against USC’s kickoff team in the same game, Baxter called it “a fluke.”

Questioned about punter Ben Griffiths, the longtime special teams coach passionately defended the freshman and his 38-yards-per-punt average, pinning that low number mostly on circumstances.

“Here’s the deal,” Baxter said. “He’s playing great, for the record. The thing is, you can never look at numbers. I’m not a statistically driven guy.”

Through three games, in which its special teams have yielded a few big plays — a return score against Fresno State, a blocked kick against Stanford — as well as a few boneheaded mistakes — the unsportsmanlike call against BYU —it’s hard to know what the deal really is with the unit.

Baxter, who has coached special teams at USC every year but one since 2010, seems entirely pleased with what he’s seen so far this season. USC coach Clay Helton, while supportive, was a bit less effusive in his praise.

“It’s not perfect right now,” Helton said, “but Coach Bax has it going in the right direction. There’s been some huge plays. You want your special teams to be special. When you look at the big plays they’ve made, that’s what you want.”

Another huge play or two on special teams could go a long way on Friday, if USC hopes to upend No. 10 Utah. But considering the state of the Trojans’ special teams the last two seasons, another crucial error could just as easily sink them.

Corner shuffle

Two of USC’s starting CBs began the week in the concussion protocol and only one is likely to play against Utah.

Isaac Taylor-Stuart remains in the protocol, after sitting out the last two days of practice. The redshirt freshman outside corner is “questionable at best,” Helton said.

If he sits, freshman Chris Steele will start in his place.

“Chris has played a lot of ball now,” Helton said. “If you go back and watch that tape, he’s been lights out.”

Sophomore Greg Johnson was cleared to play and will step back into his starting slot corner role. He will, however, have another nickel corner with whom to rotate, as freshman Max Williams (knee) was cleared to return.

Etc.

Senior DE Christian Rector, who practiced all week, has been medically cleared to play and said Tuesday that he expects to contribute against Utah. But Helton said he would sit down with Rector on Thursday to discuss the confidence he has in his injured ankle. … Sophomore WR Amon-ra St. Brown practiced on Wednesday after sitting out earlier this week with a sore foot. Helton said they’ll “play it by ear” with his status for Friday.

latimes.com

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Rock2112
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Need a laugh? Go check out the “We Ready” hype video USC’s athletic department just posted. Like someone said, let’s just pretend the BYU game was never played and do a hype video with Stanford clips. And let’s get something out there to counter the OBVIOUS fact that Clay Helton doesn’t get his team ready to play their best. And let’s get the team singing to the tune of “Nah Nah…Hey Heeeey hey, Goodbye,” since that is probably what we’re going to sing at the Coli tomorrow to Clay if he loses this game. Geez. How tone deaf can we… Read more »

Trojan5
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Good morning Rock. I disagree with you on this. USC is finally stepping up its multi media game. The more presence a program is on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter, etc. the better. Any positive pub they can draw to the school and program is a good thing. It would be much better if the football product was better, but until then the media guys need to keep on doing their thing. I live in OR, and my co workers get messages/videos everyday from Oregon State & Oregon. A good friend is a WI fan and she gets Instagram & Twitter hits all the… Read more »

Rock2112
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Fair enough T5, but my problem with these is primarily the choice of content. The theme of these videos always seems directed at the worst criticisms of the Helton era. We show up unprepared for games, don’t practice hard or in pads, miss tackles left and right, have no answers in our schemes to contain the edge or adjust to defenses? Ok, let’s go with a “We Ready” theme going into the latest big game of the year. My attitude on this is paired with the overall tone deafness of the Helton era as well, where things that every fan… Read more »

Jamaica
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OK, here’s the deal (as Baxter says), its the HC’s job to deal with mistakes & errors and if you remember it was Helton who said a few months back when it was asked what will you do now that GH runs the offense? I will observe and correct mistakes being made on the field, was his answer. There have been multiple games where a bonehead penalty was called on USC that affected the game under his headcoaching and it happened again this past week against BYU. Helton is not a perfectionist. He is an opportunist waiting to jump on… Read more »

danielmcd1
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Special teams coach and anyone on our sidelines who can see, please make sure we have no duplicate jersey numbers on the field at the same time. Special teams players, no fumbles allowed or holding or wedge infractions, or personal fouls for taunting. Special teams coach, please allow our punter to kick for distance and direction to force an out of bounds situation. Place kicker, keep kicking straight and true, you are doing a good job. Trojan players, you have to dig deep and give your best effort and do not let these Utes embarrass you. Play your butts off… Read more »

Paul_Muad_dib
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A few things…
1. Baxter sucks.
2. Slovis simply needs to not stare down his first WR. He will be fine.
3. Stepp should be our starting RB. Any other decent head coach can see that.
4. Our TE’s are basically non existent.
5. Does Helton get fired after he gets out-coached by Whittingham tomorrow night?

Trojan96
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Paul I agree with all your statements but #3. Stepp should be the #2 back behind Malepeai (spelling?). #29 has done a great job pounding the ball and making yards when there is little room between the tackles.

I don’t think they fire Helton tomorrow night. (Unfortunately). Fight On! ✌️

Paul_Muad_dib
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I like Malepeai too, however he doesn’t have the breakaway speed. He seems very predictable and runs into his own blockers most of the time like Carr. His running style is just like Stepp, so why not go with the bigger, stronger and healthier guy? Just my opinion. #29 would be a great #2 RB.

AZTrojan
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From what I’ve heard, the issue with Stepp is ball security and blitz pickup. There’s more to being a RB than just number of carries and nobody seems to mention his fumble on Saturday.

Rock2112
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Stepp is going to be phenomenal at Illinois.

TrojanMPA90
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I hate to tell Helton but so far our special teams have not been special. They’ve been down right bad. Also what is with the number substitutions on kickoffs and punts? It’s like Kiffin is back again.

LawyerJohn
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Anybody who starts a sentence with “Here’s the deal…” probably is not overly likable. And of course this entire SC coaching crew except the Texas boy are working on a deal that expires in January if they make a bowl; otherwise, they are gone come December. So it is understandable that the Trojans’ finest are a bit defensive these days…..But what about the Utah game?– the beauty of college football is that every game is like a Super Bowl. The winner of the Utes-Trojans’ war will have the best chance to capture the South, which leaves it one game short… Read more »

Steveg
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Baxter has been around long enough to know what is wrong and how to fix it. What he does is talk around his ineptness as a coach and lay it off on Helton because he knows CH is a goner. What Baxter doesn’t realize obviously, is that he is also. With problems in your area of expertise, he refuses to own them. I can see he is one of the big reasons for the soft culture of USC football. But here’s the deal, you’re gone too Baxter.

UtahTrojan
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I have to believe that Baxter realizes this is his last job in college football.

RialtoTrojan
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Today’s edition of pulp fiction from the SCNG is about the new California law “pay to play bill.” It took me three quarters of the story to grasp the real reason the schools oppose it. The schools get hefty contracts for advertising by themselves. The Nike swoosh and the under-armor logo aren’t just decoration. When athletes are allowed to market their image, there will be conflicting revenue streams. Originally I was for the bill because the only arguments against it are amateurism and the players already get enough for free. My endorsement was usually hinged on the argument that a… Read more »

Steveg
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My idea is to let them sell their likeness, with a stipend or percentage given to them immediately with the balance put into a fund, given to them upon graduation. It isn’t going to amount to very much money anyway. Think about it, how many shirts or jerseys does the average fan buy, and whose number on this USC team would you want anyway. The problem I see is agents moving in to market for the kids, and this could lead to all kinds of problems for the schools to stay out of trouble with the ncaa.

thekatman
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Most college athletes get a free education, room, board, books, fees, etc…. and of course local citywide status. I am not in favor of paying college athletes for their likeness, jersey sales, etc. If they want to get paid for having the luck to be on a full-ride scholarship, then pay for your own education and give back the schollie, then you do whatever you want. Another thing: If a kid goes to college on a scholarship, they should stay in school for 4 years and get the degree. I am not in favor of the “one and done” allowance… Read more »