Say 'Hello' to the 'Bye' Week

Ten things that can happen to the Trojans in ten days.

Ten Things That Can Happen in 10 Days

One: Middle linebacker Lamar Dawson gets healthy.
If this happens, which is really uncertain as Dawson has yet to practice since he first sprained his ankle two weeks ago, it could be huge news for the Trojans. Ever since the Kentucky native has been walking around Howard Jones Field in a protective boot, USC's linebacking corps has suffered. While he could have picked up quite a bit from watching his teammates during his time off, Chris Galippo and linebackers coach Joe Barry need to see Dawson in action. Galippo's production has steadily declined the past two games, understandably so when one player is taking a majority of the snaps. Ten more days off could be vital for Dawson to regain full strength and get up to speed on California's offense.

Two: Cornerback Torin Harris Gets Healthy OR Cornerback Anthony Brown Gets More Comfortable.
In addition to Dawson, another critical member of USC's defense has been out of practice in defensive back Torin Harris. Harris is critical in base defense and while Anthony Brown made his first start last week, Brown is better suited as a nickelback because of his physicality and Torin is better in containing a receiver in man-to-man situations. If Harris comes back to full strength it behooves the Trojans as they can diversify their defensive coverages. Or if in the next ten days, Brown becomes more comfortable switching between the two positions (and simply having more repetitions on the field), it's a win-win bye week for USC's much-depleted secondary.

Three: More Time in the Film Room.
People always say there aren't enough hours in the day. Film is so essential, but often hard to fit in these players' jam-packed schedules. Ten days gives the football team more time to study film, look back at their progression as well as mistakes in previous games and learn from them.

Four: Temporary Injuries Get Healing Time.
You could argue all the players on this team (and really any football club) are banged up. More than a week of recuperation and recovery will be welcomed by these Trojans and will surely rejuvenate them heading into the second half of their season which looks to be extremely tough, with road trips at Notre Dame and at Oregon. Players like Robert Woods can play at maximum strength with his elbow getting some healing time, Lee's jammed hand should be more than fine in the time off, etc.

Five: USC's Next Opponent Could Be Shaken.
California will have a full week to prepare for the Trojans, so that's not a concern. But the Golden Bears face an incredibly tough opponent in Oregon in Eugene. Both teams are coming off a bye week and both are 3-1, but the nationally televised factor and the Bears' playing in a rowdy environment has the potential to wear USC's next opponent out.

Six: Frustrations Be Gone.
All the frustrations of penalties, points allowed, personal fouls, close wins, etc. could dissipate in ten days and be replaced with confidence, motivation and excitmenet. As one romantic writer once wrote, time heals all wounds. T.J. McDonald already answered back to those three personal fouls committed in the Arizona State game a week later, imagine what 10 days could do to a frustrated defense.

Seven: Kiffin Could Use Some R & R.
The gameplan Kiffin creates is usually well-thought out, whether or not it tends to be successful--it's well-thought out. But imagine what a little sleep and R & R will do to this coaching staff. They'll be ready and primed to play at A T & T park agains the California Golden Bears after getting some shuteye and stepping back to assess the team's serious deficiencies.

Eight: The Offensive Line has No Choice But to Improve.
Imagine what 10 days of coaching can do to this shaky line. They looked much improved against Arizona and can truly work on their technique in the time off. O-line coach James Cregg should throw some younger guys like Aundrey Walker and Cyrus Hobbi into the mix in practice and really work on expanding their individual abilities. Marcus Martin can also feel more comfortable with that time in terms of development and confidence. And even for pure conditioning sake, he can get stronger in a week without the stress of a looming game. No matter the individuals that need to improve, though, this line needs to get better at opening up the running game. USC dominates in games that are predominantly in the air, but to beat great opponents they need to develop a better ground game as well, and that starts with the line.

Nine: Fine Tuning The Running Game.
Number eight leads us to the next possible improvement: the running game. Kiffin can spend the next week and a half fine-tuning the running game, looking at cut-ups with running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu and figuring out how to get Marc Tyler more productive opportunities (talk about a guy who will love 10 days to recover from all the hits he's been taking) and find that second back. Maybe Amir Carlisle will suit up in pads this week and will regain full strength in that ankle. Or maybe Curtis McNeal's ribs will appreciate the time off after feeling pain in them last week. Or maybe Dillon Baxter can finally prove useful in a gameplan that fits his style that might take a couple days to create. If the offensive line can improve this week then Baxter could do a lot on a sweep play with Kalil blocking or in pass-catching situations with good protection. He's been twiddling his thumbs on the sideline after five games without doing much.

Ten: Time to Put Together a Complete Game.
There has been one, against Syracuse. But the other four games the Trojans have played have, as Lane Kiffin said time and again, been a "tale of two halves." USC forced two turnovers and scored two touchdowns in the first half against Arizona but the defense needed to be better in the redzone, especially late in the game. Kiffin said he's looking forward to taking a few days for his team to be focused on nobody but themselves. And focus is best possible with little stress. Ten days should be seen as a luxury: if these players can go into a football cave, study their mistakes and focus on improvement, they should be much improved come Oct. 13.


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