USC has only taken 8 of its allotted 15 practices so for to prepare for what is a great matchup and a nationally televised game against Boston College. The Trojans have a chance to create some positive momentum against a hardnosed, physical team with one of the nation's leading defenses.
I'm encouraged because USC has looked good in practice. I don't think BC has the speed to play with the Trojans If Matt Barkley can put together a complete game Saturday night. It's never good to end the season with a loss. This is a game USC should win.
USC has some great recruiting opportunities and recruits want to player for a winner. So Saturday USC has a chance to strengthen its opportunities for 2010.
There is still a recruiting war ahead between Notre Dame's new coach Brian Kelly, a very strong group of head coaches in the Pac-10, and Pete Carroll to get the best players. Urban Meyer has entered the battle out here as well and could get at least two top Southern California players in Joshua Shaw and Ronald Powell.
Notre Dame's Brian Kelly is working 24/7 right now, and I think we can look forward to some titanic struggles between USC and ND in the future. Kelly's offense at Cincinnati was the most explosive in college football this year, and I have little doubts that he can produce the same kind of vertical game at ND.
The Pac-10 is going to continue to get better and better, so things are only going to get tougher for USC. Chip Kelly, Jim Harbaugh, Mike Riley, Mike Stoops and others have demonstrated that they can make more out of less. And I think it's apparent at USC this year that the Trojans have gotten less out of more.
There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before the 2010 season. How can USC better develop its football players? What key positions need to be filled?
One question USC has to answer by Saturday night is how to get its offense moving north and south instead of east and west? I know the goal posts in the Coliseum are at the east and west end zones. But most stadiums run north and south to keep the sun out of a player's eyes. There are no goal posts in the east and west sides of the field. You have to keep the offense moving down field to win. The end zones are not on the sidelines.
Jeremy Bates was sharing this week that Matt Barkley has had problems with his check downs and safety valve passes to his running backs when downfield routes are covered. He said that he discusses game management with Barkley every day. But Matt has still struggled with third down situations. Bates said, "Barkley has to find his check downs to be become a great player."
How does USC get its offense moving north and south?
USC's great teams of the past always moved downfield. They came straight at you. I had just turned 15 when head coach John McKay installed the I formation at USC in 1962. McKay had gone 4-6 and 4-5-1 in his first two years and hadn't beat ND. But he figured things out on offense, and devised an offense that would get the most out of its players.
As a kid growing up in Long Beach I was mowing Dave Levy's lawn in '62 and keeping an eye on the USC offense. John McKay coached through his assistant coaches. And Dave Levy, who had coached at Long Beach Poly and Long Beach City College, was a great offensive coach.
McKay had two good QBs in Bill Nelson and Pete Beathard. Beathard was the better runner and defensive player, and Nelson was a fine passer. USC was using a winged T in '60-'61 and sprinted out a lot. McKay decided to go to the I-formation in ‘62. McKay didn't invent the I, but he installed it and his coaches and players made it work.
McKay had Willie Brown and put him at tailback in the I-formation. Willie Brown was a halfback out of Long Beach Poly. I believe he was the best high school football player ever. And I don't think I'm reaching in saying that. Brown was a great runner, receiver and defensive player. Brown led the way in '62 with a Trojan offense that could move the ball downfield.
USC also had WRs like Hal Bedsole and Fred Hill who could get open and catch the ball down field. Bedsole made All-American in '62 and averaged over 20 yards a catch. Willie Brown was equally as successful as a runner and receiver. FB Ben Wilson could pound the line of scrimmage.
It took most of the season for the Trojan offense in '62 to develop. But everything came together in a 25-0 victory over ND and then the best three quarters of football I've ever seen a USC offense play in the Rose Bowl.
USC started the fourth quarter of the '63 Rose Bowl game leading Wisconsin 42-14. Wisconsin had a great defense and was the favorite that day. But the Badgers had no answer for the Trojan offense. It's sad that USC's brilliant play that day had to have the shadow of Wisconsin's fourth quarter comeback. USC had had a brilliant day attacking down field.
It's been just the opposite trying to stop the USC offense this year. It's not hard to stop an offense that is traveling sideways. USC has made it simple for opposing defenses to play close to the line of scrimmage against the Trojans. USC has run very few fly routes and corner routes with its receivers and has brought opposing defenses closer and closer to the line of scrimmage.
How can complimentary routes down field not work with receivers like Rojo, Williams and McCoy? How about some circle and seam routes from the backs? How about laying aside all the plays out to the flat that have produced a flat Trojan offense this year? How about bursting the bubble screen and airing things out?
I know USC wants to simplify everything for Matt Barkley. Freshman quarterbacks want things simple and straight forward like high school. But doing that makes things simple for opposing defenses. Matt Barkley has played 11 games now.
Let's see some things that will allow the Trojan receivers to produce more out of less. Let's give them a chance to shine. There's nothing Boston College would like better than to just slug it out with a USC offense moving sideways.
For Matt Barkley to be a complete player, USC has to run a complete offense. The Emerald Bowl gives them that last opportunity to shine like a jewel and create some positive momentum going into signing day and then into the 2010 season.
Jeremy Bates and Pete Carroll are looking for a complete performance from the offense.
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