Cameron Ward is an extremely patient passer who will go through all his progressions and not rush a throw. A physical clone of Jalen Hurts, with a comparable skillset at the quarterback position. His pocket awareness is very good and it will be difficult for the Trojan pass rush to get to him. He moves around quick and elusively, all while continuously extending plays with his legs.
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Ward has a good accurate arm and he is capable of making all the throws. Very rarely is he making an off-balance throw, or committing cardinal sins of throwing, late and across his body, as well as the middle of the field. Ward has a lot of targets in this Cougar offense and he excels at finding the open man.
Renard Bell is the big-play wide receiver for the Cougars. Bell comes into the Coliseum averaging 14.1 yards a catch on 20 catches thus far in the season. Whether it’s outracing his man down the sidelines for the home run ball, or taking a short pass and galloping for a big gain, Bell is constantly around the ball when good things happen for Washington State.
De’Zhaun Stribling is likely the best overall receiver on the Cougars team. He has ideal size and speed for the position as well as a reliable set of hands. His route tree is crisp and movements and footwork are executed with precision. Stribling is leading the team in touchdowns with four. Teams are beginning to shift extra coverage his way, but with Ward extending the plays and the outstanding pass protection, it’s hard for defenses to continue bottling him up.
There are not a lot of small guys on the Cougars offensive line. The center is the smallest guy at 6-4 and 295 pounds, the rest of the line is listed at 6-5. Why is this a big deal? Because the running backs are all 6-0 or shorter. Nakai Watson is the tallest running back at 6-0, Jaylen Jenkins is 5-8 and Kannon Katzer is 5-9. They get hidden behind the line of scrimmage and can’t be accounted for. An opportunity exists for the Cougars to try and employ a similar delayed RPO-style offense like the one Stanford was enjoying a good bit of success with.
In the passing game, against Cal, their most recent opponent. Pass protection was reminiscent of the Maginot Line in France. They were magnificent: picking up nearly every blitz, every stunt, twist, and scramble drill. Keeping the pocket pristine and absolutely spotless for Ward more times than not.
What To Watch For
In closing here are a few things to keep an eye on. The USC defense is going to be lulled off to sleep with the passing game and get gashed on the ground with chunk plays. The edges of the Trojans run defense have been targeted through the last 3-4 weeks of the season. On paper, the run defense is shoring up more and more as the season progresses, but anyone can run on Alex Grinch’s defense.
The nation’s leading unit in interceptions will have every opportunity to add to their total because the Cougars will put the ball in the air early and often. Attempting to slice and dice the Trojans defense up all the way down the field. Pressure creates bad decisions which lead to turnovers and the Trojans will need a big game from Tuli Tuipulotu and Solomon Byrd.
At worst we could be looking at the first shootout of the season, or the defense will continue its prove-it campaign. Standing up in crunch time and providing winning play, getting off the field when needed. Should be a good one #FightOn