USC Morning Buzz: An Issue When Looking Toward 2018 Season

So much attention gets focused on the skill positions when analyzing teams. But the Cotton Bowl did put the offensive line under the microscope. But even before the Cotton Bowl, a big problem I heard about talking to a pair of former All-American Trojan linemen is that the offensive line does not finish blocks.

I’ve heard this the past two seasons from the same ex-USC linemen. Is this something that just gets taught or just comes from within? And why will improve next season? That’s the more important question.

Look at the times that Ronald Jones, a universally lauded tailback, struggled against physical defenses: He had 47 yards vs. Texas; 32 yards vs. Notre Dame; 64 yards against Ohio State. And if we’re talking 2017, he had 55 yards vs. Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

So if you are happy several starters are back, just hope fundamentals will somehow improve.

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  • rusoviet

    This is a credible post because it was obvious in the games that mattered – Jones struggled at best and it was due to the O line creating consistent schemes to ensure he had lanes to move through. 100% true.

  • Yale O. Leftwich

    It isn’t just the size of the tiger in the fight, it is more the fight inside the tiger…road graders are born ; they are warriors; others can be taught the techniques and moves & are nearly as good…

  • Linkster

    Blogger, you are forever beating a dead horse. Every one on this blog is well aware of our OL deficiency’s. Can we get some “new” intel from Inside USC? I laugh when I think of this blog being “inside” on anything involving USC athletics. How about a spring sports preview? You know, baseball, track etc. recruiting info. Coliseum renovations, BB preview of Stanford? Anything new and fresh that requires a little effort. Thanks.

    • Guest.user73

      At least he could finish the article/post with a look to the future. Who are the up and coming players? And is it just me or does the picture show the linemen avoiding their job?

    • GOMER HELTON

      USC is all about football, you know this, or should.

      • usc fan

        I think its time for swann to fire clay helton!!!

        • Mrs Tool_Obama

          …and who do we hire, it better be good?

          • Michael Guarino

            usc fan: “Oh, do we have to HIRE someone, too?”
            #NeverMind

    • steveg

      Wolf is even afraid to do an open forum.

    • peter

      Or simple like,as of today how many spots open for new recruits? Signing day 2 weeks away.

  • usc fan

    Denver clay helton saying it’s just the offensive line have wrong head placement and we all laughed. Well two ex all Americans said exactly what we all been saying. The oline does not finish blocks or even try to block or even know who to block. Example AJ on kick off return blocking no one against osu. It happened over and over again. Why even play guys like this. Helton needs a self rectal exam?? Or maybe swann should do his job and fire Helton to get a real coach

  • Krystal

    If it is the more important question, then why wasn’t it presented to the former All-Americans for a response?

    • GOMER HELTON

      They did respond, but you’ll have to go back and read what they said.

      • Mrs Tool_Obama

        Voices in your head…..LOL!

  • GOMER HELTON

    Look at Gomer’s OL recruiting, his OL coach and his overall offensive philosophy, that says it all.

    • usc fan

      I think scotty should start the next title as SHOULD USC FIRE CLAY HELTON? lets see which bloggers support him and who does not? my guess more will not support him and want him fired. maybe this wi;ll wake up lynn “I do nothing” swann!!

      • Mrs Tool_Obama

        You still don’t get it

      • steveg

        Ya, just what we need. That would open the floodgates to thousands beating the doors down to get the job. You want a new coach, and you want it now!! Patience dude.

        • Mrs Tool_Obama

          Like I said, he doesn’t get it

        • usc fan

          I think Helton has done a terrible job with the talent he has. I think swann will fire Helton after signing period or mid season.

    • Mrs Tool_Obama

      Keyboard coach?

      • usc fan

        he is only pointing out the obvious

        • Mrs Tool_Obama

          That he has a hardon for Helton, got it

          • usc fan

            I think he just wants Helton to do his job better

          • Mrs Tool_Obama

            Don’t we all?

            He thinks the next guy up is a better solution

          • usc fan

            Yes I do. I think keeping Helton any longer will damage the program long term. Fyi I’m not the only past player who thinks that too. We all think he is a nice guy/ good coach, but a terrible head coach. He does not manage well and has never managed well

          • Mrs Tool_Obama

            So now you’re a past player, interesting

          • usc fan

            That has been said before

          • steveg

            Saying it means nothing. You have nothing.

          • usc fan

            None of you guys get it. USC will get nowhere till our current coaching staff if gone. If he can’t win a naty now what make you al think he can win it now.

          • Pudly76

            Now you’re a past Trojan National championship player…before you only said D1 now you’re actually a Trojan and Monarch alumn and won a National title, but you can’t spell or use spell check?? You’re not Leinart, what kind of stupid game you playing?

          • Arturo

            Puddly, you’re gonna blow my cover too ( I’m Anthony Munoz)

          • Michael Guarino

            You were amazing in “The Right Stuff!”

        • GOMER HELTON

          Just block him, he’s a troll

  • JustOwns

    How many yards did RJ grind out in the Alabama 52 – 6 victory?

    • Mrs Tool_Obama

      Wake up!!!!!!……It’s 2018

      • JustOwns

        Snore.

  • steveg

    wolf, the posters on here are months ahead of you. Even the trolls.

  • Brent4c

    It’s nice when you can cherry pick stats from games over 2 seasons. Did neither of the Stanford games matter?

    • Mrs Tool_Obama

      Wolf considered the voices in his head to be ex-USC linemen

    • Michael Guarino

      Those Stanford games mattered, Brent. Big time. USC’s lines looked real good in both. It still would have been nice if the o-line played better against Notre Dame —but we were hurt and tired in that game. I think, with any luck on the injury front, the o-line is gonna be a pleasant surprise in 2018. And our defense —except for the corners —is gonna be stellar. Clay has some great cards to play.

      • Trojans 6942

        I like it

        • steveg

          Always room for some optimism after reading all the gloom and doom. So many on here need to realize we have all heard how much they dislike Helton.

          • Jack B

            He did a horrible job with USC’s OL this year, unless you want to say he’s not responsible for that part of the team.

            It’s not about disliking Helton. He’s very likable and a good coach. But he needs to improve a lot if he ever expects to compete with the better coaches.

          • steveg

            I said three years ago this isn’t the place for on the job training. It is what the administration created, wanting to build a reputable atmosphere. I think very highly of Helton and what he has accomplished, which is exactly what he was hired to do. I don’t believe anyone was looking for him to take USC to the top, just to get them out of the bottom where they were in all the chaos and upheaval. He should be respected for that.

          • Jack B

            Helton is respected for that, without a doubt. He just doesn’t measure up to the big-time coaches, but few do.

            It’ll be interesting to see who is coaching USC in 2019. I don’t think any of us have a good bead on that.

      • Independent_George

        Both ND and OSU had bigger, faster defensive players than Stanford. Much bigger and faster.

        Also, Clay has seen Stanford four times in three seasons as HC and 9 times since 2011. Clay needs familiarity. He doesn’t do well against teams and schemes he either hasn’t faced before or hasn’t seen frequently. Dynamic “Straterigzing” is not a Clay Helton hallmark.

        • Michael Guarino

          Very smart observation, IG. It really does seem like Clay & Co. view their jobs as Pac 12 specific. It’s all they know and all they want to know.
          #FactOtherConferencesAreBetter….
          #…Doesn’tHelp

      • Independent_George

        We were psyched out days before we landed in South Bend. Did you listen to the press gaggles during game week preparations? Clay was “complaining”/admiring ND’s size and speed. Clay was scared. Scottie even alluded to this.

        • Michael Guarino

          Although it was another good heads up by Scott, he didn’t need to point it out. All South Bend week, Clay had those “big eyes” that you don’t want to see on a kicker before a game deciding kick. He showed that look before Alabama and Ohio State, too. Don’t think the players don’t notice that —-they do!

    • Arturo

      Ding ding ding ding ding

      • SCSTEVE

        You on Helton’s coaching staff? You must be. The performance of this team’s line for the last few years has been poor. The performance has been indefensible.

        • Arturo

          I wish. Bad Oline play was obvious. Replacing Zach and the other LT never happened and the mix and match thing left Sammy D and RJII high and dry MOST of the time.

          • Jack B

            Zach Banner couldn’t block a decent DE if he tried. He whiffed constantly against anyone with any quickness whatsoever and was immediately released by the Colts who stupidly drafted him in round 4.

            It’s not like USC lost some great player in Banner. Frankly, he was an overweight, underachieving slug most of his USC career. Wheeler was better, and he was probably a 2-3 star HS player who was still just average in college.

            USC not only doesn’t reload on the OL anymore. The Trojans don’t load in the first place.

    • Jack B

      STAN wasn’t that good this year, period.

      Sorry, but they just weren’t. They lost a whopping 5 games, including one to the way comparably under-talented SDS Aztecs.

      So you can brag all you want about beating mediocre STAN twice in one year. That’s doesn’t make up for getting absolutely shelled by OHIO ST and ND, who were also both very vulnerable and got taken apart by other teams this season.

  • Fred Sampson

    Steve Sarkisian wanted a fast pace, no huddle offense, but his lineman were out of shape, and winded by halftime. Clay Helton wants to emphasize the run, but his recruiting reflects the complete opposite, no blocking tight ends, and no big physical lineman. So yes, I totally agree, 2018 won’t be pretty.

    • Mrs Tool_Obama

      Steve Sarkisian, guy was fired a few years back.

      (pointless)

    • marvienna

      The linemen are taught to not finish their blocks because that’s what this soft offense requires.

      It’s not so much Helton recruiting the big uglies. He needs to change the offensive philosophy, too.

  • usc fan

    BY the way the best picture of all. two usc lineman blocking a guy who is no threat, while a LB runs freely up his gab, al best of all DI not blocking anybody. lol, unless he is trying to sack sam too.

  • UCLA Dynasty

    I still can’t believe you guys didn’t can your OL coach. I guess Helton is being loyal to a family friend but that guy is going to cost him his job. Someone has to be coaching OL at your development team in Kentucky.

    • steveg

      Dummy, that is Eastern Kentucky. Get it right or get out of here.

      • Knight7

        Who goofed! I’ve got to know. My lips are sealed, but his initials are steveg……..It is Western Kentucky.

        • Knight7

          That was marvelous, Jim…..Simply marvelous!!

  • David Keeling

    The biggest mistake Clay Helton will make this coming season is not replacing his O-line coach. This will cause the team to lose more games than it has the last 2-years.

  • Rock2112

    I think the OL is poorly coached, but putting that aside, a second problem is the flag-happy refs in the Pac-12, especially when they are looking around at Trojan uniforms. Everything we do (or don’t do) is called for a penalty. I think SC’s linemen have to abandon their blocks a little early to avoid drawing a holding penalty. That gets beaten into them by flag after flag over the course of their careers. Perhaps that is why our more experienced lineman are perhaps worse at finishing blocks than the newbies in the system. But of course, the newbies draw more flags, because what constitutes “finishing a block” for other teams = holding for SC.

    • Paul Muad’dib

      Every single game this year SC lineman were flagged for doing the exact same blocking as the other team, yet the Pac 12 refs didn’t call it the same for the other team’s Oline. I remember several TD’s against our defense where the was a blatant hold by the opposing team. It like the opposite of the Patriots treatment.

      • Rock2112

        Yep, and more than that, the amount of holding that was let go in the CFP semis and NC game was astounding. Refs let the teams play. But the Pac-12 refs cannot keep it in their pants. This is a Larry Scott issue, so we’re screwed going forward.

  • Stephen Randel

    I’ve got a novel suggestion for the USC O line coach; why not demand that the players block until the ref blows his whistle or the player does not play? USC might try that approach.

    • Michael Guarino

      Funny —but Bobby Bowden went one step further, Stephen —he told his players to keep playing right through the “dying last notes of the whistle.”
      #NothingLikeEncouragingLateHits!

  • Cloud Shaman

    This year has to be the same or better or Helton is gone and I have supported him but disappointed in his not making the tough decisions. See Darkest Hour movie.

    Don’t feel sorry for him he makes 3 million per year.

    • Tebow_Obama

      Oh no, the Sunshine Pumpers will make more excuses for Helton, they’ll be saying, “Well, Helton lost his starting QB, RB and a WR, just give him another year”.

      • Michael Guarino

        One problem with that approach —-in 2019, Clay will have an experienced QB but he’ll lose experience at wide receiver and running back….
        #GiveClayUntil2020?2030?

        • steveg

          Not so fast MG. In 19 they have St.Brown, Pittman, Vaughns, Grimes, and Pie Young. Plus others. At RB Vavae, Carr, and Stepp as of right now. Not so bad after all. Depth after 19 could be serious.

          • Michael Guarino

            Good stuff, steveg—-but are you positive none of those folks can leave after ’18?

  • Tebow_Obama

    With all the issues with the Trojans offensive line over the past few years Clay Helton and Neil Callaway have never made any adjustments to shore up blocking for the run or pass.

    Helton for whatever reason does not like doing very much substitution at any positions. So when the offensive line sustains injuries you have inexperienced underclassmen brought in that don’t have much, if any, game time experience. Most coaches will bring in a TE and a FB to help block, not Helton or Callaway, they make no adjustments, leaving the inexperienced players hung out to dry trying to pick up blitz packages coming from all over and they have no shot.

    And Helton started out as a QB coach, you would think he would be aware of how important it is to establish pass protection, but the guy is clueless, he just calls plays and assumes they’ll work out.

  • Tebow_Obama

    And you have Helton and his no physical contact/tackling practices, not to mention his Friday night dinner get togethers.

    The players should be in the weight room on Friday nights, not at some all you can eat buffet dinner.

  • Tebow_Obama

    Look at the picture above, you have two Buckeye defensive players in the Trojan backfield sacking Darnold and you see two Trojan offensive linemen not even close to where they should be and they’re blocking no one, not a Buckeye within arms reach of either of them.

    That’s a signature Neil Callaway blocking scheme right there, he would consider that text book. LOL!

  • Tebow_Obama

    According to ESPN, out of all the commits that the Trojans have signed for the 2018 recruiting class, only two are O Linemen.

    3 Star OT Liam Douglas 6′ 5″ 263 lbs. so he’ll need to put on about 40-50 lbs.

    4 Star Justin Dedich OC 6′ 3″ 290 lbs.

  • Jack B

    Best SW post ever.

    USC’s weak OL is just shark chum for anybody any good. All bets are off on the 2018 team which has the same crap, in both coaching and talent, coming back. USC beat TEXAS and PSU with the help of massive miracle Darnold plays. ND beat us worse than any Irish team I’ve ever seen, ever. OHIO ST coasted to a 24-0 lead before they just put it in cruise control while hapless USC struggled to score even a point.

    We are what we are. Fantastic skill. Horrible OL. Too bad. Hope Helton wakes up and understands that this involves a lot more than head placement and technique.

    • Arturo

      With all due respect, amigo, I hope the SC 2018 team proves you wrong.

      • Jack B

        Facts are facts. You can go ahead and pretend USC’s OL was even decent if you want. Be my guest.

        But SW just quoted you the numbers and they don’t lie. I watched all the games and don’t need SW to tell me we couldn’t block TEXAS, OHIO ST and ND.

        Watching USC’s OL this year was frankly humorous if you like Laurel and Hardy comedy. We were no competition for the better teams this year, which is why we fell from a pre-season PO team with a great QB to an also-ran 3-loss team.

        • Arturo

          SC underachieved for sure. I hope they surprise next year and win it all. I can dream.

          Moe, Larry, Cheese! Moe, Larry, Cheese!

          • Jack B

            USC has absolutely no chance to win it all in 2018. None. Not even in dreamland.

            That’s okay. We’re still a good team and we should get into a decent bowl and will hopefully beat TEXAS, ND, STAN and ucla, though I doubt it.

            I just hope we stop winning ugly every week with massive penalties, unevenness and mistakes and start playing clean games that don’t leave the fans shaking their heads in frustration.

  • jim

    The O-Line is the key to the offense. If the O-line doesn’t perform, the offense won’t be that productive. If the offense is not that productive, it’s hard to see how you’re going to win more than 8 games with only a good defense. If they don’t win more than 8 games, CH might be out of a job. But I guess CH knows what he is doing.

  • Trojan96

    The O Line will be much improved this year regardless if they fire Callaway or not. Technique and footwork needs to improve. The younger linemen like Jackson will be a tremendous help. Please SC get a quality OLine coach.

  • David Keeling

    Helton has chosen his brand and will go as far as he can with it. Even if he could improve it…… he has chosen not to and in this type of environment, it is pretty sad.