LOS ANGELES >> The good news for USC’s offense is that Western Michigan’s defense cannot possibly be better than the one the Trojans faced in Saturday’s scrimmage at Howard Jones Field.
USC’s No. 1 defense dominated most of the 70-play scrimmage and did not allow the Trojans’ star-laden offense to score a touchdown.
It’s not unusual for the defense to be ahead of the offense at the outset of training camp. But after 12 practices, USC should be able to run the ball. Tailback Ronald Jones is supposed to be one of the best tailbacks in the nation and three starters return on the offensive line (Toa Lobendahn, Nico Falah, Viane Talamaivao).
The only run of consequence, however, was a 45-yard gain by freshman Stephen Carr. It was Carr’s third long run in two scrimmages, but Saturday’s big play was against the third-team defense. Big difference from what Jones faced all day.
The wide receivers were not exactly tearing it up either. If you want a hidden concern going into the season, ask yourself what receiver is going to be a deep threat? Who will stretch a defense so that Jones and Carr can find more running room? Who will allow Darnold to air it out during a game?
The Trojans’ best receiver, Deontay Burnett, plays in the slot and deep passes are not his forte. There are six redshirt freshmen led by Tyler Vaughns, who had a touchdown reception against the reserve defense. Whether they can hurt a defense is completely debatable.
Sophomore receiver Michael Pittman finally got some snaps with the first-team offense Saturday but the coaches do not appear to want him to start. Redshirt freshman Velus Jones caught a deep pass that was underthrown and the result of poor pass coverage.
There is a huge opening right now for either true freshman – Joseph Lewis or Randal Grimes – to become a key receiver. Lewis had several nice catches Saturday.
“Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” USC coach Clay Helton said Saturday.
The toughest decision for the coaches could be who to play at the skill spots? Even among sideline observers, there are disagreements over who should be starting at receiver.
It does seem a little strange that a team coming off a Rose Bowl victory and ranked No. 4 nationally would be so inconsistent at wide receiver and unable to run the ball.
It would be comforting for USC fans to say all this was the result of the defense, which certainly played well Saturday. This is troubling, however, when you think about the…