“I even tried to wear my white shoes and channel my inner Pete Carroll,” Williams joked this week at observe, pointing at his new footwear. “Whatever it takes right now.”
With a much-needed bye week upon USC, Williams may definitely use a few of that mid-2000s magic proper now.
Setting apart the choice to half methods with Clay Helton after Game 2, let’s check out the place the Trojans stand at midpoint of the season.
What went proper
1. Drake London has emerged as one of many nation’s prime receivers.
It’s tempting to only record London’s accomplishments to fill this house — most contested catches, most receptions within the nation (64), second-most receiving yards (832) — however we’ll spare you an extended record of numbers. Just know this: London has been a pressure to be reckoned with to this point this season.
His mixture of measurement and expertise and easy route operating has discombobulated defenses, making him practically unimaginable to cowl with only one man. That further consideration has, in flip, opened up alternatives for the remainder of USC’s offense. London has had no less than 9 catches and 130 yards in 5 of USC’s six video games — exceptional consistency contemplating how defenses have targeted gameplans on stopping him, going as far as to take common low-cost photographs.
No protection has found out learn how to cease him but, at the same time as they’ve found out the remainder of USC’s offense. On a greater staff, his prolific stats may’ve warranted Heisman Trophy buzz by now. But London might must accept simply being a very nice faculty receiver who dominated throughout a not-so-great season on his strategy to the draft.
2. The run sport has really improved.
USC’s dashing assault had been on a downward trajectory for years, earlier than it lastly bottomed out final season because the Trojans may barely scrounge collectively 97 yards per sport, good for a hundred and twentieth within the nation.
Enter two switch backs from Texas in Keaontay Ingram and Darwin Barlow. Ingram has been a serious improve because the lead again, whereas Barlow has confirmed himself worthy in current weeks of supplanting Vavae Malepeai within the main change-of-pace position. Together, they’ve given USC a satisfactory dashing assault, which is greater than USC may say it had lately.
Ingram has been the linchpin of that progress. A violent runner able to shaking off tacklers, his presence within the backfield has made transferring the offense simpler on quarterback Kedon Slovis. Ingram already has 16 performs of 10 or extra yards this season, which is simply two fewer than the complete USC backfield had by its six video games final season.
His emergence has been aided by higher run blocking up entrance, which is a testomony to first-year offensive line coach and run sport coordinator Clay McGuire. But Ingram deserves a ton of the credit score for lastly making opposing defenses respect the run … that’s, till USC has been compelled to move to attempt to shortly erase deficits.
3. The future is secure within the arms of freshman Jaxson Dart.
It was only one sport, however boy was it a heck of a sport. In a dynamic debut for the ages in opposition to Washington State, Jaxson Dart threw for 391 yards and 4 touchdowns, hobbling his strategy to a powerful highway victory on an injured meniscus.
He hasn’t performed a snap since, however the single-game efficiency was sufficient to again up what we thought was clear after fall camp: Dart is USC’s future at quarterback.
He could also be its current, too, by the point USC returns from its bye. Dart is progressing at observe and nearing clearance from his injury, maybe by the Notre Dame sport subsequent Saturday. It’s unclear if which means he’ll get a shot on the beginning job, like Williams promised after the Washington State sport. But his vibrant future past this season is nice motive to retain some hope by 2021.
4. For what it’s value, the offensive line has been higher than anticipated.
OK, so perhaps it’s a back-handed praise. But after anticipating the worst, USC’s offensive line has no less than exceeded these expectations.
USC was at all times going to take its lumps with two freshmen offensive tackles. But Jonah Monheim has no less than proven a propensity for run blocking on the best facet of the road, whereas the inside has performed nicely in that regard too, clearing extra room than USC backs have been accustomed to lately.
Pass blocking, particularly on the perimeters, has been a little bit of a special story. But consider it or not, USC ranks among the many top-20 groups within the nation in sacks allowed, having taken simply seven to this point this season.
I do know, I used to be stunned, too. But indicators level in direction of each Monheim and left sort out Courtland Ford discovering their stride someday within the second half of the season.
What’s gone incorrect
1. The USC protection has unraveled.
No must isolate a selected a part of USC’s protection. Depending on the week, it’s been trampled on the bottom or picked aside by the air. What as soon as appeared like USC’s finest probability to compete within the Pac-12 has now develop into its greatest query mark.
Its move protection has underperformed despite its overwhelming expertise, permitting 8.4 yards per move try, which ranks worst within the Pac-12 and 112th within the nation. After wanting fearsome in fall camp, a defensive entrance loaded with potential NFL expertise has been simply mediocre by the halfway level of the season.
Edge rusher Drake Jackson has had temporary brushes with greatness, tallying two sacks and a fumble restoration in opposition to Colorado, however he hasn’t been constant such as you’d anticipate from a possible first-rounder. Cornerback Chris Steele and security Isaiah Pola-Mao, each key veterans, have struggled mightily after wanting like certain draft picks themselves.
It’s tough to diagnose what’s incorrect with the protection as a result of it’s been a special drawback each week. But if USC doesn’t isolate the difficulty quickly, it would solely worsen from right here.
2. No second choice has emerged within the passing sport.
Bru McCoy was alleged to be the No. 2 choice, however his suspension earlier than the season left USC scrambling for an additional weapon. It’s nonetheless scrambling greater than two months later.
Memphis switch Tahj Washington was the likeliest choice to fill that void, however he’s to this point appeared miscast in USC’s offense. Gary Bryant Jr. has had his moments, however began gradual resulting from a hamstring damage. And freshman tight end Michael Trigg appeared sure for a breakout position earlier than a knee damage slowed him in opposition to Utah.
No one has taken the reins but. But USC can’t hold asking Drake London to do all of it. Defenses will modify in some unspecified time in the future.
The Trojans have loads of prime recruits of their receiving corps. At least one ought to be capable of step up alongside London within the second half of the season.
3. The Trojans’ prime freshmen haven’t lived as much as their prime billing simply but.
When Korey Foreman signed with USC, the athletic division wasn’t precisely delicate in saying the freshman’s arrival. It did so with a billboard on campus, making it clear how prominently Foreman factored into the Trojans’ future plans.
But by six video games, Foreman hasn’t figured that prominently on USC’s protection. The prime total recruit has averaged 11.5 snaps per sport, the overwhelming majority of which has come on apparent passing downs. Foreman obtained his first sack final week, however he nonetheless has lots to show to earn the coaches’ belief.
He’s not the one one. Raesjon Davis, the second highest-rated recruit within the Trojans’ 2021 class, has performed a complete of 11 snaps on protection this season, all of which got here in opposition to San Jose State. After Foreman and standout security Calen Bullock, defensive again Jaylin Smith has performed the next-most amongst freshmen. But since reeling in a sack and interception in opposition to Washington State, Smith has performed simply three snaps.
4. Penalties are nonetheless an issue.
The damaged document drones on. USC has one way or the other, a way managed to get worse within the penalty division. Only six groups in faculty soccer are shedding extra penalty yards per sport than USC, which has misplaced 80.7 yards on a mean of 8.2 penalties per sport this season.
When Williams first stepped into his interim position, he promised to deal with USC’s self-discipline points and enhance accountability. But to this point, he has not been capable of cease the penalties. USC had two of its most penalized video games of the final three years below Williams’ watch.