Duh, right? Of COURSE injuries are going to have an effect on this game. They have an effect on EVERY game! Well alright that is true. So lets talk about the ones that we can prep for. Marqise Lee (shoulder) and Silas Redd (meniscus) are both dinged up, although Redd is the only one to officially be declared out for this game.
Redd recently made news off the field when his initial recruiting visit to SC was linked to Snoop Dogg, forcing USC to issue a statement to the effect of:
"Silas Redd has never met Snoop Dogg, much less received a ride from him in any type of vehicle. USC head coach Lane Kiffin picked up Silas from the airport on his recruiting visit."
This is probably water under the bridge (at least for now). Still, when I heard that Silas was declared out, my initial thought was "THEY CAUGHT HIM!!!!" but nope, turns out it was a Twitter admission by Redd himself:
"Gonna hurt to not travel with my squad tomorrow but I know y'all gonna handle business in a few day! I'm working to get back 100% #FightOn!"
Not sure if I'd be super happy about this if I was the coaching staff. Not that UH would suddenly change their defensive scheme as a result, but there's still something to be said for the element of surprise. In any case, Redd is out, and this could have a particularly domino-like effect on the two quarterbacks, Max Wittek and Cody Kessler. Now, instead of having a seasoned veteran to hand the ball off to, they will be looking for Tre Madden and Justin Davis, two super talented, but super raw backups. And when I say raw, I mean that they have the same number of Division 1 carries that I do.
Usually I try not to put toooo much stock in practice videos. There's no pads and for the most part, the players are just horsing around. Still, you'd never mistake a Hawaii workout for one at USC. Those guys just LOOK (physically) like an NFL team which is quite a bit intimidating, especially scary considering the amount of guys we have who will be playing in their first college game on Thursday.
Back to injuries. The reason that Redd's in particular is so critical is because of Lane's really curious decision to not name a starter at quarterback for the opener, instead opting to "play both guys." This to me, is the ultimate sign of disrespect. Why would you treat an actual game, against an actual opponent, like a bona-fide scrimmage? That's the only possible reason you'd announce your intention to play two guys who were so similar skill wise: Because you felt like no matter what, each would be successful and playing them this way would give you an additional week for evaluation purposes.
Redd sitting out, however, means that if the going ever gets tough, USC won't be sure that the tough will ever get going. In truth, I've never really been super impressed with Silas as a football player. He's always seemed to be more of a "stats because of his opportunities" kinda guy to me, benefitting greatly from USC's stubborn insistence on handing him the ball 15 times a game, and Marqise Lee's unique ability to stretch half the field as far as he wants to run his route. It's not a shock that when you go back and watch USC's games from last year, Silas was most successful running tosses and sweeps to Marqise's side of the field, and super NOT successful between the tackles. It's also telling that his average went down as the level of competition increased. Against non-conference teams last year, he averaged 6.2 yards per carry. Pretty good on the college level. Against conference teams, that average dipped to 5.1. Against ranked opponents? It dipped further to 4.2. This means that as the opponents got stronger, his production stalled. And it's not as though the ranked teams that USC played were known as "dominant" defenses. In fact only Stanford's was considered truly stout (a game in which he was held to just 1.3 rushing yards per carry).
So why does this matter for UH? Because if we have one true strength on D, it's our line, which has both size and depth. And no matter how I feel about Redd as a player, he was starting because the coaching staff felt that he was clearly the best option available. Now? Now no one really knows. Madden is a converted linebacker and Davis is a true freshman. Not that either of these qualifications means they won't be productive. Could be just the opposite in fact (USC, after all, has historically been able to do just about whatever they want on offense against Hawaii.) So maybe I'm grasping at straws here? But maybe not. The thing with young guys who have potential? Sometimes they also have the potential to make huge, HUGE mistakes. And the worst ones are those that you never see coming. All it takes is one to completely change the momentum of a game…