Morning Buzz: Does USC Need More Focus?

I’ve heard some USC media twist themselves into pretzels trying to defend the UNLV performance.

Luckily, some former players have contacted me since the game to express their frustations. They were disappointed in the defense, especially the front 7. Some where disappointed in the offensive line.

But again, they are more perplexed by the leadership of the program.

I want to point to something I see before a game even starts. In the past 10 years, there have been only two pre-game warm-ups that stood out to me: When USC played Alabama in 2016, I saw Nick Saban screaming at his players during a drill. Saban looked like so angry you would think it was Game 10 instead of the season opener.

But when I tell former USC players about this, they understand. They say Saban was setting a standard and making sure Alabama kept it. Without such high standards, Alabama does not win national championships.

The other warm-up I noticed was Ohio State before the Cotton Bowl. Also very business-like. With a common purpose.

That same game, I saw some USC players wearing their helmets only halfway down their head. Some players were dancing between plays. In other words, focus was not the No. 1 image conveyed.

That’s just the way it is for USC. And every player I spoke mentioned one thing. USC is not currently equipped to win a national championship.

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62 thoughts on “Morning Buzz: Does USC Need More Focus?

    1. Damn! Only three. Maybe if we didn’t play all those kids for game experience, that Scott was a proponent of, it might’ve been 5. Who knows? Those secret sources that’s who.

      Scott do you have code names for each one? Deep Throat…Rolling Thunder…I Gotta stop smoking so much of that so I can tell the difference between voices in my head and real conversations?

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I get that POV and yes it makes sense acting like you understand what’s at stake and why you were selected to be a part of that moment – yes it makes perfect sense. Not sure if Clay Helton will ever be the one to act in that manner (screaming) not in his DNA and frankly unless you win – who needs it? As to seeing the OH St. players acting in a business like manner – 100% correct. That is missing and that seems indicative of a lack of an assistant coach who can instill that in the squad – that is what is needed – an enforcer.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I like where you’ve been going with this for the past week, Alv —– Coach Helton doesn’t have to transform into Marv Goux —-but he needs a Marv Goux on staff to instill discipline. I’m sure Coach Helton thinks he has plenty of guys that do that already —-but that’s the problem. He doesn’t.
      One Goux or one Orgeron could be a difference maker for this already very good program. But I get the feeling that Coach Helton isn’t looking for that kind of guy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We need something in between Happy Clay and Happy Tee (I admit that’s a somewhat unfair characterization —they both can be tough when they wanna be —- but neither strikes fear like McKay or Saban) and a crazyman, wife beater. I’d be tempted to say someone like Tom Cable but, if memory serves, Tom might have had some serious anger management issues himself. So “Cable without the abuse” is the job description.

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    1. Let us all bow and ask for our championship season…and when you pray, tell Him that you come in agreement with me and then use your imagination and heart to explain it to Him…… Please? When you are finished, you should feel like something has been drawn out of you….

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      1. Pudly —- Stephen is really poisoning the well on your rep here in Maui —-I just went for a walk and there were a bunch of kids dancing in the streets and singing something about “Pudly’s a disgrace to his heritage. Pudly’s a disgrace to his heritage.”
        #IStoodUpForYou,Man…..
        #….ButThenTheyStartedOnThisAbominationChant….

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Pudly —Before a big heavyweight fight or a pivotal election there’s lots of name calling to keep everybody energized and plugged in. I think that’s what you and McGhghy are doing for the USC fan base. Thank you….
        #…FromTheBottomOfMyHeart

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  2. There is nothing wrong with the Saban way but the Pete Carroll style at USC was also very successful with multiple national titles. I think you can still play loose and be a championship level program.

    SC’s problem started when they hired Sarkisian. SC wanted to have that fun and loose program that would compete for titles every year and they thought they were going to get that by bringing back Carroll disciple Sark. Only problem is that Sark brought back the dancing around on the sidelines but he had no clue on how to focus a team. Some players even said Sark seemed to try to hard or was an outright fraud.

    SC may have still gotten rid of Sark but elements of his disastrous hire remain – all the jumping up and down and waving towels to psyche up players, and the soft jet sweep/no running game/soft OL offense that Sark bequeathed to USC is still around.

    Don’t blame USC because their coach isn’t as intense as Saban. Carroll showed you can win consistently by being a players coach. It’s the leftover stink of Sark and his leadership philosophy that’s the problem and why USC isn’t built to win right now. Blame Pat Haden too for that ill – advised hire.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Actually, you’re right, marvienna. I guess we don’t have to go the Saban route. Pete Carroll DID develop a whole different approach to the game. The Carroll thing worked, though, because of something Carroll was born with —something even better than Saban’s tough intensity: Charisma. And you can’t develop that and you can’t buy it at Macy’s. Coach Helton has the next best thing: Sincerity……
      #….ButIt’sJustTheNEXTBestThing…..
      #…AndIt’sGoodFor10Wins….
      #…NotCollegeFootballChampionships

      Liked by 1 person

    2. PC had a public face but he could get on their ass as well, he also, in the beginning, had hard assed assistants, Davis, Orgeron, Holt, Chow. Where he went south was when he hired children yes men to replace the adults.

      Gomer has NO hard assed assistants. Gomer is soft, he was a QB, he’ll never be a hard as, the team will never be physical, he’ll never win anything important.

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  3. Looseness didn’t matter when Pete was here. The most reliable commonality between coaches that win a lot isn’t their coaching style, it’s the fact that they hoard great players. Alabama wins consistently because they consistently have the biggest, strongest, most athletic players and their backups could start for other teams. Without any screaming from Pete, we could say all that about USC when he was here, but can we say that now? Did you really think the major difference between us and Ohio St last year was coaching style? Is that what you saw?

    No team west of the Mississippi is equipped to win a National Championship except OU. Why is that, Scott? If USC’s problem is mostly coaching, what’s wrong with the rest of the western United States?

    Liked by 3 people

      1. One thing I DO know: Helton will never be in the headlines for being personally involved with the kind of crap that’s plagued so many schools (including ours) over the last decade. He runs a clean program. And, when all is said and done, that’s saying a lot.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. We may not need to go that far, but I think Neil Callaway needs to ask himself if he is really the best man for the job at this point. If in his heart he believes that there are people out there who would serve better in that role, he should step down. He has to understand that if a change needed to be made, Coach Helton, in his in his abiding loyalty, would wait too long to do it, if he would do it at all. Would coach Helton really fire such a close family friend from what is most likely his last real coaching job? I doubt it. IF there is a better choice out there and Coach Helton isn’t making it, he’s doing a disservice to the team and he’s risking his own future out of loyalty to Neil Callaway. That means Neil Callaway is risking the future of someone I’m sure he cares a great deal about. He needs to take Coach Helton out of this position and make the altruistic move. My opinion is that there’s a better choice on the staff already. Sliding Drevno over could be done during the season/right now. Neil Callaway owes it to his unit, his team, his head coach, his head coach’s father and himself to fall on his sword here.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Clay, your eloquent as always. But maybe overly dramatic. Oline pass blocked more than adequately last game. Let’s just see what they give stanfurd, if anything. But yours is certainly an overwhelmingly popular view.
        I always enjoy you sharing your thoughts with me.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right then again if OK had been hit with they would have hit the same doldrums we did although I doubt their coaching succession would have been as awful as ours was. USC has a huge advantage because so many kids want to play here.

      Kiffin was the best of the bunch that came after PC as the jury is still out a bit for Helton and Orgeron has learned to hire excellent assistants – something Sarkisian (the worst of the lot) hadn’t a clue and still not sure Helton does either.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well whether or not Helton lasts, one thing can be said for him, he left it better than he found it. More than can be said about many coaches these days.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Hoarding great players is part of it. Just getting the biggest, strongest and most athletic players alone though isn’t going to cut it.

      You have to have a coaching staff that can scheme them on gameday and inspire them – “coach them up” – to play at a high level. That’s the commonality among coaching styles. A taskmaster like a Saban can inspire players while a fun loving let it all hang out Carroll style does the same thing. USC could win with either style.

      If USC and Ohio State had similar levels of talent in the Cotton Bowl, I think USC still gets its butt whooped because Urban Meyer and his staff is much, much better than Helton and his staff. USC’s disadvantage at the moment is coaching. But when you lose, the coaching style gets scrutinized together with the X’s and O’s.

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      1. I’m not going to say coaching doesn’t matter, but there are backups at Alabama who would start at USC. There are no backups at USC that would start at Alabama. How does a coach consistently overcome that talent gap in the very physical game of football? Yelling? You need backups who are just about as good as the All-Americans in front of them. When has USC ever won playing the plucky, undersized overachievers who mostly won’t play on the next level? You go to UCLA for that.

        Marv, let’s say that we’re going to play a pickup basketball game. You and I are captains and we have 8 players to choose from to have 5 man teams. Usually, we would alternate picks, but in this case, I get to choose my 4 players first and you get what’s left. Obviously I am going to choose all of the best players and we’re going to dominate you guys. However, I am going to allow you to have PHIL JACKSON coach you guys while we go without a coach. Do you really think Phil Jackson will make the difference that allows you to beat us consistently? It won’t. Now, let’s say you guys give us Phil and you go without a coach, but you replace one of your players with a 25 year old Shaquille O’Neal. Will us now having Phil Jackson allow us to overcome the dominance of this one player you now have? It won’t.

        Look, even the equipment staff contributes to the success of the team, but they don’t go out on the field and make it happen. The coaches don’t either. Everyone and everything helps, but the game is about the people playing it. Basic competence would take Alabama’s roster to the playoffs, and it’s so mostly because of the work they did recruiting. You don’t need to be a special coach to coach that roster.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Clay — I ALMOST want to agree with how that excellent essay of yours came out. (But) Given the level of the competition, I’d say you DO have to consider the possibility that it DOES require a special coach to come out on top in one championship game after another. Alabama has not been favored in all those playoff games [by those whose job it is to evaluate player talent]—-and, yet, they manage to win.

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      3. Clay, the rebuttal to your argument (it is a good argument) and an example would then be Pete Carroll’s tendency to lose those “little” games during the 2000’s.

        There were head – scratching losses to teams that everyone thought USC had no business losing to and some even pointed to USC’s talent advantage. 2006 Beavers and UCLA. 2007 Ducks and Stanford. 2008 Oregon State. 2009 Arizona. USC got beat by rosters filled mostly with three stars. Alot of those coaches were nowhere near the equivalent of basketball Phil Jackson either.

        Somehow some middle of the road Pac-10 coaches beat a team with some of the best players in the country. It overcame the dominance of some of USC’s best players.

        You make a nice argument but I just don’t buy how a special roster can elevate just anyone to a championship level coach. If it was just talent alone, 4th and 2 should have succeeded but for a coach’s decision to leave a Heisman winner on the sideline.

        Talent needs coaching as much as coaching needs talent.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Marv, responding to your response as ‘disqus’. Of course good teams are going to slip up and have letdowns. Having the best players or being the best coach doesn’t absolve you of that. You’re never going to win them all, regardless of the circumstances. Having the best players and the deepest bench is the best way to insure your success, especially in college football. Do you really think you can win a natty by upsetting 13 or 14 straight teams just because you have a great coach? No. You have to be better or just as good as everyone you face. Even if you are better, you STILL need some luck. You have to have the players who can either dominate or matchup consistently. Bama isn’t favored in games because of who their coach is but because of who their players are.

        Everyone says Phil Jackson was the greatest b-ball coach of all time. He does have the most championships, but we don’t really know if he was the best coach. What we do know is that he won his championships while coaching the greatest player of all time in Chicago and the best 2 players in the league at the time in LA. He needed those players to achieve his success more than they needed him. I’ll never say a good coach doesn’t make a real difference, but you could put Saban on the sideline for Oregon State and let me and a few buddies coach his Alabama team and we’d still mop the floor with the Beavers. A coach is more likely to lose a game for you than win it. Coaches matter, but players matter more.

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      1. I’m not sure why I can only reply to certain comments, but this is in fererence to your reply to me. I think Alabama has more or as much talent as anyone else in the country year in and year out. Not only do they have it, but they stack it. If Helton had that roster, he’d be in the playoffs this year. Sabah is a great coach, but if he didn’t recruit like he does, we wouldn’t know it.

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    1. Puddly, I’m referencing your reply to me and I echo your kind words back to you. I may be being overly dramatic, but part of it is because I don’t think NC is the O-line coach that attracts the best O-linemen in the country. I can’t keep pointing to his unit as the weak spot on the team year after year and think everything is okay. We can do better there and we need to.

      I also don’t see any evidence that we have a great special teams coach either. That’s another area that doesn’t seem to get demonstrably better and Baxter has been there for some time now. Va Tech has a great special teams coach and you know it because you see it on the field year after year after year. For years people have been talking about how elite he is, but where’ the evidence. I believe that Saban’s true greatness is in how he recruits, how he hires and how he coaches his coaches. It’s not because he yells.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Clay it is hard to argue this kind of logic. Your points are very well taken.
        But my response would be that NC has only had two recruiting classes and in them has gotten 1 5*, 4 4*, and 2 3*. I’d also point to Jalen McKenzie would probably have been a 4* if he’d come in the last class (which is the class he counts against). As far as development, his people are just starting to take over, and in the offensive line it’s the hardest group to change the culture/mindset, and this groups had multiple coaches the last few years.
        But bottom line is results, and even more patient people like myself are beginning to wear thin.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My answer about Neil Callaway and the OL as a group might go higher than Callaway’s pay grade.

        I think the soft OL of the last few years goes back to Sark and the offense he brought with him from UW. It is run by Tee Martin now and even he said he is looking to make the USC offense more like the Golden State Warriors – the ability for the big play all – the time from anywhere.

        With a comment like that, I think the OL on the team is the OL that the offensive braintrust wanted. They are not looking for road – graders. Instead of the beefier lineman that excels in drive blocking, they have lineman who are more athletic and can move quickly to the hashmarks and beyond rather than strong interior line play. When Sark went to Atlanta, he ran alot of jet sweeps and plays that put alot of players in space at the expense of a strong running game and he got crucified for it.

        I think the OL you see is what these kind of coaches want with the soft offense philosophy. Callaway is just a grunt executing orders.

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      3. “If Helton had Saban’s material SC would be in the playoffs”—Have you been drinking or doing drugs?? Saban gets the material, BUT HE CAN COACH IT!

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  4. Yeah, SC will never go for the Angry Saban approach. We play ball the way we live – with joy. You were wrong with the Carroll hiring, and here’s to hoping you’re wrong with the Helton hiring. Of course they’re not ready to win a title this year. That’s just a truism. They’re building toward one. I’m sure Saban and Meyer wold have kept Bubba on the field for what he did. SC has more integrity than that.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think we have the players, save for the soft Oline, but I don’t see championship mentality. I know many blame Helton for this, but I only see one or two assistant coaches I would keep. The biggest mistake USC ever made was letting Ed Orgeron go the way they did. I am sure some are old enough to remember Marv Goux. He came out to my Pop Warner practice and taught fundamentals and was just gruff enough to make it stick. Ed is another coach in that mold. USC needs coaches that from the Marv Goux -Ed Orgeron style. This sensitivity crap needs to go!!

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    1. You remember that the school offered him a lifetime contract. They just didn’t want him as head coach. We all love Ed, but if he doesn’t win some big games this year he won’t last long in Baton Rouge either. Regardless of last nights outcome.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Pudly, in your response to your message about the star rankings, I would simply call your attention to the fact that you’re relying on recruiting services’ Star rankings to underpin your point. Do you want a do-over here?

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  6. No SC team should ever surrender 309 yds rushing to vegas … were not talking 81 huskers or bama or domers here.. Vegas and I really don’t care if it comes on 8 attempts or 40 … I watched the Auburn D line throttle huskies and LSU dismantle Miami and Domers smoke Mich. and the one thing all those squads had was a dominant D line. No way could we beat LSU right now. How are we ranked 8 spots higher… That’s a joke. I don’t think any one of our D lineman could start for Auburn or LSU or ND, Ohio State and forget about Bama or Clemson or any of the other top schools now. And unless the D gets it act together were in for a rough Saturday…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I also blame the 3-4 Pendergast uses for Vegas’ 300+ yards rushing. It’s a passing defense formation which is a sieve for running plays. Where is the 4-3? Oh, that’s right: Clancy doesn’t change his defenses based on the opponent. It’s always cover 0…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Gomer was an ineffective assistant to Goat Kiffy and that idiot Snark … he doesn’t have the skills to be a successful USC football coach. He is a nicer version of those two idiots, but an idiot nonetheless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The fact that Coach Helton doesn’t suffer from the personality disorders manifested by Kiff and Sark is not a fact that hardly matters. It’s a huge ingredient in his success….
      #….And,ByTheWay,IdiotsDon’tWinRoseBowls

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Clay Helton doesn’t coach our players. He suckles them. Tee Martin can recruit but he cannot coach beyond the flag football level. USC football is an embarrassment.

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