Wide Receiver Woes
On first glance at the statistics of the game, USC had 364 yards receiving.
That is a reasonable amount of yardage for any passing game. Upon closer
inspection, Fred Davis, a tight end had 152 of those yards. While this bodes
well for Davis and the team, it does not help the wide receiver corps.
If the Trojans are reduced to depending on the tight end, opposing teams can single cover receivers and turn the Trojans into a less versatile passing team. Patrick Turner did have 83 yards on nine catches. Turner and at least one other wide out needs to average 100 or more yards to keep the opposing defenses on their toes.
Our suggestion: Give the ball to Ronald Johnson. Johnson has the potential to easily average 100 yards or more per game. He also is a long ball threat, and that would stretch the defense and make the middle and short yardage game more effective. Having more options in the passing game also means gaps in the defense for tailbacks to run out of.
What went right: Fred Davis. Davis is having a monster year and he needs to become a more vocal leader on a team searching for direction. His numbers are excellent and he has sure hands. Now Davis needs to kick the rest of the team to a higher gear.
John David Booty is an enigma. This young man has all the pieces for a successful year and career in front of him. Booty has ample size, talent and gifts, he sits on a team that is loaded with talent and potential. The athletes assembled around him is mind boggling. All-Americans, 5-star players and candidates for post-season awards litter the team.
Something, however, something is just not clicking for Booty. All the tools and all the pieces for a National Championship and a Heisman Trophy are there. This all came crashing down on Saturday. with a loss to a Pac-10 bottom dwelling team, the Stanford Cardinal.
Much could be said about how his receivers have dropped the ball. How tipped passes or miscommunication in pass routes have turned into interceptions. How the offensive line had its difficulty against Stanford and Washington.
However, great quarterbacks find a way to win. Great quarterbacks find a way to overcome obstacles and win the games that win championships.
Redemption for Booty then is to find the way to get the receivers the ball. He needs to find a way to lead this team to victories. It would be his responsibility then, his calling, to pick up the pieces and lead these Trojans to the BCS Championship Series. The door is all but closed on the Championship Game, but a respectable BCS Bowl Game is still very much in site.
What went right: Despite 4 picks and another miserable game, Booty did amass 364 yards and two touchdowns in a low-scoring losing effort. He has the tools necessary to finish he season off in grand style.
Running Back Troubles
Just two weeks ago, the running attack for the Trojans seemed to have a full head of steam going for itself. C.J. Gable was averaging 11 yards per carry. Stafon Johnson and Chauncey Washington hovered around 9 yards.
Amidst cries to see Gable on the field more, he dropped a bomb. For a year he has been battling a groin injury and finally decided surgery would be his best option. Exit Gable, enter Stafon Johnson. Johnson was performing beyond expectation and had found his spot in the tailback rotation. Not to be - he also fell to injury and was not available for the Stanford game. Washington now seemed poised to be the workhorse of the backfield.
Washington labored to get 75 yards on 23 rushes. A meager result for a tailback crew which so much is expected from. The running game on the whole was unimpressive against the Cardinal. The team gained 95 yards on 2.5 yards per carry.
What needs to be fixed: Somehow, the tailback crew needs to gain at least 200 yards per game to help ease the congestion around its receivers. As it sits, most teams can put eight in the box and give the tailback fits to get out of the backfield. Along with Washington, another tailback needs to come out of the backfield and play smash-mouth football. Punish defenders at the line. Johnson needs to recover, in a hurry. If not, try Allen Bradford or Stanley Havili as workhorse running backs.
Offensive Line Identity Crisis
The offensive line threatened to make a mockery of the rest of the league. In the Nebraska game, the line blew holes open a mile wide for Johnson and Gable to run through. There were gaping holes in the line that could send shivers to defenses watching the game. Then the bottom fell out.
After three solid games of pass protection and run blocking, freshman center, Kristofer O'Dowd and right guard, Chilo Rachal fell to injury. The prognosis, three weeks minimum recovery time for each player. No problem, Matt Spanos and Tiny Malu to the rescue. Malu suffered a little injury and Zach Heberer stepped in.
While Spanos, Heberer and Malu have done well in relief, maybe the offensive line suffers from the absence of O'Dowd and Rachal. Only time will answer this question.
Coaching Adjustments aka Where Do We Go From Here?
What went wrong: Missing the touchdown on 4th and goal to end the first half. If going for a touchdown, you need to get the touchdown. To leave the field and turn the ball over on downs when you are inches from pay dirt, get the touchdown or kick a field goal.
Coaching the running backs: Chauncey Washington had a low yards per carry count. Hershel Dennis had a 4.9 yard per carry average, but only 34 yards on seven tries. Joe McKnight had three yards on two handoffs. Dennis and McKnight were underutilized in this game, not to mention Allen Bradford, missing in action.
Coaching the wide receivers: Patrick Turner has played a little timid thus far this season. He has not aggressively gone after the ball. In some situations, he has tried to catch the ball with his hands instead of bringing the ball in. In other cases, he has dropped easy catches. The coaches need to find a way to move Turner toward perfection. Catch the ball, keep the ball, and win the game.
The coaches also need to find a way to develop the receivers on the fly. Yesterday would be a good goal. Ronald Johnson has shown flashes of brilliance. Give him the ball. Talk up Vidal Hazelton and David Ausberry. The talent and abilities are there, but confidence is not. The coaches' job, then is to get the receivers to the next level.
Something missing: Pete Carroll mentioned that there is something missing in the team's preparation and they need to find what it is and to fix it. This current roster of Trojans has yet to find the swagger and confidence that others had. At the end of his tenure, the Carson Palmer led Trojans believed no one could beat them. For the most part of three years of the Matt Leinart led teams, they believed no one could beat them. John David Booty and his crew have yet to find that place.
The something missing, which Carroll alluded to, is just that. This team needs to find its swagger; it needs to find its confidence. The coaching staff knows how to coach. They've been there. Yes, the x's and o's need to be fine-tuned, but the staff's job is to get the team to where it can be. A place that says, "no one can beat us" and "we're better than you."