Where’s That Awesome USC Receiver Fleet?

But last Saturday, as the proceedings slowed in the second half, so did the Trojans’ supposedly fast-paced offense. USC ran only 26 plays after halftime against Fresno State, leaving its receivers feeling surprisingly fresh.

“We were letting them police themselves,” Harrell said, “and they felt fresh. They said, ‘Coach, it’s a lot slower than what we’re used to.’ ”

That didn’t leave much time for rotating at the Trojans’ deepest position. After reiterating all offseason how many receivers would be involved on offense, only Tyler Vaughns, Amon-ra St. Brown and Michael Pittman Jr. (left) ended up catching passes against Fresno State.

That won’t be the case Saturday. Harrell and coach Clay Helton have resolved to pick up the pace and rotate more receivers against a Stanford secondary that held Northwestern to 117 passing yards last week.

Maintaining that pace against the Pac-12’s preeminent ball-control offense is certainly no easy feat. Northwestern, while not a naturally up-tempo offense, managed only 60 plays against Stanford.

USC, meanwhile, had 51 plays in one half a week ago, before starting quarterback JT Daniels went down with a season-ending knee injury.

 “Their average snap, the play clock goes down to 10 seconds,” Helton said of the Cardinal. “You have to make the most of each and every possession.”

Whether USC will be able to make the most of each of its receivers remains to be seen. Sophomore Devon Williams, redshirt freshman John Jackson and freshmen Munir McClain and Drake London were all expected to play a role on offense, but none of the four wideouts were given a chance last week.

Soon, that group will grow. Four-star freshman Kyle Ford, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament a year ago, was cleared to practice in full this week.

Even with freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis under center for his first start, Vaughns (21), who had 11 catches against Fresno State, expressed confidence that another slow start wouldn’t be in store.

“With us moving at a fast pace, everybody can get in, everybody can ball, everybody can do their jobs,” Vaughns said. “More plays, more opportunity.”

Costello out

USC won’t be alone Saturday in forging ahead without its starting quarterback.

Stanford’s K.J. Costello was officially ruled out for the game Thursday, following a blow to the head he sustained last weekend against Northwestern.

Costello will be replaced by junior Davis Mills, who signed with Stanford as the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the 2017 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Last week, following Costello’s injury, Mills completed seven of 14 passes for 81 yards.

Prior to that experience, Mills threw only two passes, both incompletions last season.

“It’s not something where they don’t have confidence in him,” Helton said of Mills. “They’ll stick to their system. It was evident that you go from one quarterback to the next, and nothing stopped.”

Still, without Costello, it’s fair to wonder how much Stanford’s passing offense can really accomplish. Last season, Costello was one of the conference’s best quarterbacks, completing 65% of his passes for 3,540 yards and 29 touchdowns.

Etc.
1) USC football gets commitment from 6-5, 295 pound OL Caadyn Stephen (Camas, WA) on Sept. 5, 2019.
2) Walk-on quarterback Brandon Perdue, who has led USC’s scout team offense, will enter Saturday’s game as the third-string quarterback behind Slovis and Matt Fink, Helton said. The Trojans also carry two other walk-on quarterbacks. … Junior offensive guard Andrew Vorhees will be available Saturday, but Helton said Jalen McKenzie, who surprisingly started over Vorhees a week ago, will retain his spot.
latimes.com

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Paul_Muad_dib
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I am hopeful for one of two outcomes. Option 1: USC wins like they should with a strong running attack which opens up the passing game and a two score victory. Or option 2: Helton does what we expect and gets severely out-coached, USC gets blown out at home and Hugs gets fired on a tarmac somewhere…

Rock2112
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We may only get 6 to 8 possessions in the Stanford game. Most, if not all of those need to end in scores for us to win, and mostly touchdowns. We can’t afford a slow start for Slovis to find his groove. This may be the most important week of practice in Clay Helton’s tenure, and I hope he is running it accordingly.

TrojanMPA90
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Definitely need to get ahead early and put Stanford on their heels. If we can establish our running game mixed in with short to intermediate passing and keep turnovers to a minimum and get pressure on their QB, we should win the game.

TrojanRJJ
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Please remember, we have only 4 running plays. We will NOT be able to establish a running game. We will need to pass to run. We could not run on Fresno State when they knew it was coming. Stanford is far superior on D to Fresno State.

TrojanRJJ
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Rock, I think you got what Stanford is going to try to do. The issue is whether our D can stop them. They are very much a “take the air out of the ball” team. I have no idea if our D is up to the task. But, I think one point is clear – the O game plan cannot be conservative. A conservative game plan is probably the most risky O game plan. We are NOT going to run with regular success on the Stanford D IF they expect it. If Stanford can get a lot of 3rd and… Read more »

Rock2112
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Definitely agree, not a good year to try to out-Stanford Stanford, and I think Stanford will have their way with our D. Unless their backup QB is not up to the task, Clancy will let Stanford be Stanford offensively (meaning, first and ten, second and seven, third and 2, first down, rinse and repeat and eat 8 minutes off the clock for a TD). I guess where I see it is that the USC coaches have the job of engineering an offensive game plan that will work against Stanford. I haven’t seen enough of our air raid in action to… Read more »

Steveg
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USC will lose if they think they have to go deep every series of downs. The talent can get the ball in space and yards after catch will be the big difference in the game. I haven’t been this excited about a qb change in a long time, really looking forward to seeing if Slovis is for real.

Scipio
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I don’t know about you guys but with Slovis as the new starting QB, it seems like this Stanford game is our second opening game. We are not quite sure what we are going to see. I have been listening to some poster’s criticism of Slovis not playing against top competition in high school being a possible problem. The concern is legit. However, I remember here at Duke awhile ago Coach K (the real Coach K) had a recruit coming in that coach was really high on but the criticism was the same as Slovis, who has he competed against?… Read more »

Steveg
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I don’t think there can be that much criticism about who he played against. I think you have to look at how did he do with what he had around him. He seemed to do well. Conversely, JT had the cream of the crop around him in high school, and look where that got him in college. Unable to deal with physical pressure. For that reason I would take a guy like Slovis, who can do more with less around him. But, we shall see tomorrow.

Steveg
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One thing I have noticed is that now Toa is gone the snaps are where they should be and it seems nobody is a lock at an OL position. This is a good thing. I noticed last week that I don’t have time to get a drink between plays like I used to and is certainly an adjustment, by the team and myself. LOL If Slovis doesn’t get rattled I have to say I am excited about this qb change. Just sorry it happened the way it did. Hopefully Stepp gets a shot at the run game this week.

TrojanRJJ
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While I am sorry for JT, I agree with you. I think the team stands a better chance with Kedon. I am looking forward to the game tomorrow- not because I expect SC to win (I have no idea if SC will), but to see how it turns out.

Paul_Muad_dib
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I agree. I have nothing against JT, but he does not know how to recognize pressure or avoid it. He doesn’t know how to throw the ball away either. He also stares down his favorite receivers. See the interception in the end zone last week. I have hope for Slovis that I didn’t with JT.

LawyerJohn
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After Slovis’ poor interception, and the fact the two runners were doing well, are reasons why Slovis only threw 8 times in the one-half he played. If the runners are clicking again, I can live without 300 yards of passing.

TrojanRJJ
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John, see my post below on the running game. Stanford is going to stuff the run and force Kedon to beat them. And, given the structure of this O stuffing the run is not difficult. Stopping the pass is – assuming a QB who can execute it. Remember Stanford has a lot of experience against this type of O scheme – WSU has been running it for six years. So, the game is very much on young Kedon. Stanford’s O scheme is exactly the reverse of SC’s – the issue is can our D hold up to power run game… Read more »

rleeholder1
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It will be interesting to see if USC tries to match Stanford with ball-control offense or whether Slovis is allowed to sling the ball around to a talented group of receivers.

TrojanRJJ
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Rlee, I sure hope Helton is not THAT stupid. This O has only 4 running plays. This O scheme is designed around the pass – throwing to “open grass”. Much like Vince Lombardi teams were designed around the run. Stanford has an excellent D. I think they can stop a 4 play running game. Kedon is going to have to pass a lot for SC to stand a chance on Saturday. But then again, maybe Clay is THAT stupid.

Steveg
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RJJ, don’t put anything past him, I think he is that stupid.

rleeholder1
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I’m just remembering the ND game in South Bend where Coach O just ran the ball almost every down. I’d be surprised if Cody Kessler threw more than 15 times in that game. We didn’t win, but it re-established physicality which was lacking under Kiffin, amongst a whole lot of things.