Morning Buzz: Little Room For Tailback U. In USC Offense

Let’s look at how the USC offense changed during Markese Stepp’s three years.

In 2018, USC passed 51 percent of its plays and ran 49 percent.

In 2019, USC passed 57 percent and ran 43 percent.

In 2020, USC passed 59 percent and ran 41 percent.

The change obviously took place with the hiring of Graham Harrell and installation of the Air Raid offense.

You can go back to August, 2019 and find where I wrote the following: “One criticism I’ve heard was that at North Texas, some coaches felt he did not really want to run the ball and would call run plays at the wrong time just to get them out of the way, because he was more interested in passing the ball.”

Some of the homer media tried to say Harrell would run a balanced offense. But after two seasons at USC, the offense is one-dimensional.

30 thoughts on “Morning Buzz: Little Room For Tailback U. In USC Offense

  1. Things can quickly go from bad to worse in this situation. Consider the 1-2 punch of no O-line and no available talented backs. The offense then will truly be 1-D, and very easy for opposing defenses to double or even triple-team our receivers – or drop 8-9 into coverage. Running the ball when never taking a snap under center is also flawed, especially since it is an automatic 3-yard head-start for the defense. This offensive game plan completely ditches the fundamentals of football – wearing an opponent’s defense out at the line of scrimmage by pounding the ball between the tackles with a hard-to-tackle RB, which forces the defense to compensate with less pass defense.

    Sad when you O-coordinator is so enamored of a scheme he detaches from fundamental football. It will be a long winter…

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Every team with good line play beats us….year in and year out. Notre Dame. Oregon. Ohio State. Wisconsin. Iowa. Any physical team can beat a Helton team. And all coaches know this—-including Helton [which is why you won’t be seeing him on the sidelines during a bowl game].

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Good for Stepp, he should have entered the portal two years ago.

    USC since 2010 has a track record of “Zero Player Development”. Any player who has gone onto the next level has made it in spite of Helton’s 3rd rate coaching.

    Kiffin and Sarkisian are the same way, you won’t find a player who played under them that will say that they learned anything from any of those three clowns Kiffin, Sarkisian and Helton.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your dead wrong about Kiffin and Sarkisian. They have now matured and their teams can score. The horrendous
      sanctions were a big factor against them. The co-ordinators
      were always lame while the two were at USC .


  3. The only hope for USC football is for a total house cleaning and since that’s not happening anytime soon, USC football will remain D E A D for YEARS to come

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Scott, I know people say you are a doggie downer, and I have been one to bark that, too. However, I see no reason to be anything but. I know the athletic department was a mess when Bohn was hired. I volunteered in it, and it was a glaringly bad place. It starts with our marquee program, football, and filters to all others, as my daughter’s became a mess, too, resulting in her quitting the team even when she was successful, but was pushed to the side, just like many of our star football players. Until they fix the football program, and that starts with the obvious, firing Helton, nothing will change within the hallowed halls of Heritage Hall. After all, it is Heritage Hall. If there ever was a name that embodies the HISTORY of a storied program in many sports, Heritage Hall is that place.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Yeah, USC was balanced in 2018–51% pass, 49% run, and balanced in the W-L column too: 5W-7L.

    Great point.

    It’s hard to correct the Calloway effect, and I don’t know if Drevno has the ability or inclination to do so. Last year was a defensive house-cleaning, and there is some evidence of improvement (excepting the UCLA debacle). Thank Drev for his service and keep Colbert, Jinks, Harrell and move on.

    If 2021 is not a 10-2 season, fire the HC.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Maybe. But we have our pick of losers, misfits, burned out cases and outside conference rejects….

        Liked by 2 people

    1. That doesn’t make sense. Of course a team can be balanced in the plays it calls and still lose. And a team can have the best players and not have turnovers, and not have stupid penalties, and have decent blocking from TEs and Backs, and run inside and at the perimeter, and have a QB line up under center when it fits… It can do any of those things and still lose. What’s your point? Don’t do the things that work toward winning because you still could lose?


  6. I expect in ten years this mess will not matter to me. I’ll either be dead or senile or both (unable to remember I’m dead) but about that time Helton will be discovered in a tent under an abandoned bridge clutching his book of secrets. The secrets he used to blackmail USC into buying 60 acres of swamp land in Florida. There is no other explanation that fits his success. By success I mean ability to stay employed. There will be the Haden charity scam and Swann probably knocked up a staff member. What he has on Bohn and Folt other than their non-Trojan bias is yet to be revealed. In a few years his train wreck ends and USC is free to go in a different direction, I can’t wait for the big reveal I just hope I can remember why.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’d like to suggest two avenues you might wish to explore in your search for the truth, Rialto. (1) Swann is the guy who, without explanation, extended Helton’s contract. (2) Swann was terminated by Folt without explanation.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. It didn’t help that Markese was 3rd string behind Vavae and Stephen Carr. Perhaps fumbling put him at 3rd string? But the best coaches – Meyer, Saban, Pete, etc. – would believe in the guy, and help him overcome that issue to make sure their best talent is on the field. Only the worst coaches – Helton – would have talent like Stepp languishing on the bench because the coach is afraid that the guy will fumble.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Maybe with better coaching he doesn’t fumble as much. The kid was the best RB we had, he looks to be gone, but with this stupid offense it won’t matter anyway, the RB is useless much like the TE.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. How often does a kid come along at 235 lbs, 4.4 speed, great attitude, and we saw how he put all that together last year, pulling 3 or 4 tacklers with him on runs. Now he just sits on the bench. No other coach would waste this kind of talent. The HC is the village idiot.

        Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s not the linemen. SC has sent at least a few linemen to the NFL each year and will have a highly touted NFL caliber one going out this year. Most CFB teams can build a powerful run game behind a few NFL caliber talents.

      But linemen aren’t the only blockers, they never can be. TEs and RBs have to be able to block first. People have to be taught their keys and protection assignments, their angle and leverage (their relation to the QB or runner). And schemes have to prevent mismatches, recognize them and change the protections.

      What Harrell does is insulting to OL/TE and RB coaches. He tells them “Just stop what you can coming at ya, I got 5 receivers out and probably a back, and the QB is going to throw to anyone of them that’s open. Run blocking? Softening the defensive line? Moving the QB? I don’t know about any of that. Do ya like wrasslin’?”

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh, it’s the lineman, too, Global. It’s as hard to watch Chad Wheeler (get knocked over EVERY play at Seattle) as it was to watch Toa Lobendahn.


      2. Jesus Christ… Wheeler (despite possibly being psycho) is in his 4th year in the NFL, and so is Zach Banner who came out with him, and Chuma and much of the OL is playing on Sundays too. OL who are put in space to have a rush come at them will always lose. UW isn’t Bama,- they’re not even Georgia or Oregon in terms of DL and LB talent. But, and please listen carefully on this, and not you but SC fans: Graham Harrell cannot coach, and his scheme does not allow for proper blocking– talent isn’t the issue. And his QB is mediocre.

        This is the same thing with Sarkiffin, with Helton, with Kingsbury, etc. A lot of fans are delusional or really don’t understand football much, and the folks at HH just keep giving them what they want instead of what SC should have.

        They don’t want “boring” old fashioned football, they don’t want coaches that are too old or too fat or too short or too Polynesian (or black) or too loud or too quiet…

        But then they want to win with this superficial approach, a dream world where a Kingsbury figure and a clone of his, only from OC, runs an Air Raid offense into Heismans and championships, but somehow there’s a little “beast mode” running in their too to remind the world SC is tough.


  8. True story

    Markese Stepp went into speak with Helton and Harrell last week. When Stepp questioned why so little time was spent on the running game Helton responded that’s who we are. The passing game is more important to us. When Stepp expressed disapointment at their philosophy Harrell then told Stepp that if he didn’t like it he could leave.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Howard,

      If this is true, then Helton and Harrell need to leave. You don’t chase off a back with that talent away. You build the offense around him. The kid is awesome. he could be the next Heisman winner if used right.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. bohn is going to have plenty of ammo to force folt/caruso to approve clay’s firing.

    harrell is a rank amateur as an OC. i would love to see the look on this smug face when he gets fired.

    the solution is easy. fire helton & harrell and then hire Fickell and his OC. they can turn it around very rapidly, although it might take a little time to get the offense line on track.


  10. In 2001, SC was 1-4 and then 2-5. Norm Chow was throwing the football 50-60 times a game like he did at BYU and NC State. Pete Carroll went to him and ordered him to put some balance in the offense. Chow obeyed and started to run the football about 50% of the time. They won the next 4 games in a row. I don’t think that CH is that kind of a coach who could take control like that but even if he could, I’m not sure you can do that with this kind of an offense. This offense is not geared towards running the ball.


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