Q&A: USC Style

This segment went so well during the LSU week that we decided to do it one more time! Kevin Carden, Publisher of SCPlaybook.com, was gracious enough to answer questions posed by our subscribers on the eve of the USC/Washington game in Seattle. On to the questions and answers!

Dawgman.com: It appears as if there isn't a lot of trust for Barkley given the vanilla offensive schemes and in consideration of what appears to be a lot of single reads/locking on of WRs (i.e. not a lot of progression on plays). What are the general feelings regarding how much Barkley is progressing, the time frame for SC to open up the playbook a bit, and what kind of concern there is on what SC's reaction would be if they get into a position where they get down 2 scores at some point this year.

Kevin Carden: I wouldn't say that the coaches don't trust Barkley, I mean to start a true freshman, when you have a very capable player like Aaron Corp, shows that they have a lot of trust in Barkley.

With that said, the play-calling has relied heavily on the Trojans running game, and been more conservative than in years past. I think they are trying to protect Barkley and ease him into games but they wouldn't hesitate to open things up if they found themselves down a few scores.

The thing to remember when looking at how conservative the game plan has been in USC's first two games is, against San Jose State they knew they could win with a simple game plan, which would help Barkley and also limit what they showed Ohio State.

Last week, the Trojans were playing in one of the most hostile environments in college football, so they were naturally more conservative and were also surprised at some of the fronts that Ohio State threw at them, which accounted for some of the offensive struggles.

More than feeling like they have to keep it simple because Barkley isn't progressing, I think it's more a case of the coaches wanting to protect him and ease him into his first two games of his career.

We probably won't get to see what the game plan would have been with Barkley at the helm this week because he hasn't practiced all week and it appears that Corp is going to be the starter on Saturday.

DM.C: Discuss some of the issues that SC had in the kicking game against Ohio State? Given that it does not appear as if SC's offense is going to be its typical "blow you out of the water" offense this year and that there will be more close games potentially on the horizon, how much of a concern is SC's kicking game in light of not necessarily ever being asked to be a difference maker in the past?

KC: The USC punting game has been a concern all offseason and hasn't performed well up to this point. We saw last week in Columbus when the Buckeyes continually won the field position battle because of special teams. The Trojans' offense was continually backed up deep in their own end because of the poor special teams.

Carroll hasn't been shy this week in discussing his displeasure with special teams and even went so far as to have third-string quarterback Mitch Mustain try his hand at punting. Mustain isn't a serious option yet, but it illustrates Carroll's frustration.

DM.C: How does the USC fanbase view the Husky team under Sarkisian? In terms good team/bad team or love/hatred.

KC: I think that most USC fans, at least the ones that I have spoken with, hope that Sarkisian succeeds at Washington. Sarkisian received his fair share of criticism as an assistant, but most fans like him and appreciate what he was able to accomplish at USC.

The Trojans have been hurt in the past by the national perception that the Pac-10 is a weak conference, which isn't true, and having a school like Washington reclaim their spot as a powerhouse on the west coast would be a good thing for the Pac-10.

DM.C: Who are the unheralded players on USC (if they exist) to watch out for Saturday?

KC: The first guy to watch will be sophomore quarterback Aaron Corp because he will most likely be making his first start. Corp is a very smart quarterback that makes good reads, takes what the defense gives him and can also break out of the pocket and run with the ball when needed.

With Joe McKnight sick with the flu and migraines this week, we could see more of tailback Allen Bradford, who is a big, physical back that has good speed. He didn't get many carries against Ohio State but Bradford is a very talented player to keep an eye on.

On the defensive side of the ball, safety Drew McAllister could see extended playing time, and may even start if Taylor Mays(sprained knee) is unable to play. Other players to watch on defense that Washington fans may not be aware of are defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and freshman linebacker Jarvis Jones.

Both players have been very active this season.

DM.C: How much game planning do you think Carroll is doing for UW vs. OSU and do you think that a potential lapse of game planning led to last year's debacle at Oregon State?

KC: Carroll said he is very excited for this week because he loves to coach against his friends, and I think that added intrigue will help in avoiding a letdown against the Huskies. Carroll said that it's like game planning against yourself this week because both teams run the same basic schemes, so what you have to do is pay more attention to the little details and make sure you have every base covered, more than coming up with new fronts, plays, etc…

With the lessons that they learned in losing to Oregon State following the Ohio State win a year ago and the motivation of facing a former assistant, I would be very surprised to see a letdown.

DM.C: Do they miss not having a perennial rival? They have occasional rivals, but not a program that will consistently challenge them. I'm curious as to whether they hope Sark succeeds in bring us back all the way.

KC: This is an interesting question because I have noticed fans have two different views when looking at rivalries: Some fans like to see the Trojans' absolutely dominate UCLA and Notre Dame every season, like they have done for the most part under Carroll, and others miss the days when both teams were powers and you had some classic games.

Overall, I think it would benefit USC in their quest for a national championship if either UCLA or Notre Dame was in the Top 10-15 every year. It would help their strength of schedule and provide another potential big win on a national stage in front of the voters.

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