LOS ANGELES — USC is 4-0 and ranked fifth in the nation but not many people feel comfortable about the Trojans after an up-and-down opening four weeks.
There are more actual problems with this team than there were a month ago.
Here are 10 things USC needs to fix to beat Washington State on Friday night.
1. Coach harder: There are three positions right now where USC needs extra coaching: The offensive line lacks basic fundamentals, the defensive backs lack confidence and the wide receivers are not developing. You know who needs to handle this? The coaches. Unless players start getting coached up, USC will not be an elite team.
2. More explosive plays: USC’s longest pass play and longest run against Cal were both 19 yards. That is not a dynamic offense. Don’t blame injuries. Everyone has injuries. And USC’s third-string players might be rated higher by recruiting analysts than Washington State’s starters.
3. Get physical: The defense looked like it was on its heels during the first half against Cal. The Trojans do not push anyone around. When is the last time you saw a USC linebacker blow up a play? The defensive line is also slow off the block.
4. Block somebody: Quarterback Sam Darnold is under too much duress on pass plays. But a bigger problem is the line plays too high or too low. This allows defensive lines to take control, which also affects the running game. Just as bad, the offensive line often displays poor footwork.
“There are Football 101 drills that should be taking care of this problem,” said a former USC offensive lineman who watched the Cal game.
5. Stop grabbing receivers: How often do you see a USC cornerback grab and hold an opposing receiver with the ball in the air? This is from a lack of confidence. A rule for cornerbacks is if you are close enough to touch a receiver you don’t need to. Iman Marshall has been pushed around a couple times by Texas and Cal receivers. Jack Jones had two interceptions last week, but he holds too much which could lead to more pass-interference penalties.
6. Let Darnold be Darnold: The joy of watching Darnold play last season was when he would create something out of nothing by scrambling out of the pocket. Too often this season, Darnold stays in the pocket. That is what a defense prefers. Mobile quarterbacks keep coaches up at night.
7. Find a dynamic tight end: With starter Daniel Imatorbhebhe (hip) still waiting to make his first appearance, USC has been content to throw to its…