Week 13 USC vs Cal Recap, End Of An Era
It would have been nice if USC could’ve pulled off a win last night for what was most likely the last game Coach Williams will be with the Trojans. It was a slow and very ugly game on both sides of the ball. Both teams played down to each other and that made it a fairly even matchup. Mistakes by players who don’t play a lot and missed opportunities from players that do. Let’s go through the numbers of the last game of 2021 before the Lincoln Riley Era in 2022.
Bright Spots In The Depth Chart
Most of the key starting players this year didn’t see too much action on Saturday night. Instead, players like Michael Jackson III, Vavae Malepeai, Kyle Ford got a chance to make some plays and did against a much improved Cal defense. Michael Jackson had six receptions for 73 yards with some really impressive grabs in some tight windows. Malepeai, who slid down the depth chart during the season due to the emergence of Ingram, had a great game with 18 carries for 107 yards. Kyle Ford, who made it onto the field a lot more due to the injury to Drake London, ended the night with five receptions for 71 yards and a 45-yard touchdown catch. Gary Bryant Jr. sat this game for either an injury or just rest considering this game didn’t mean much at that point.
We also saw some snaps from freshman cornerback Prophet Brown and Sophomore Safety Chris Thompson Jr. At this point it’s unclear how much of this roster will be retained due to Lincoln Riley bringing in new staff and heavily recruiting on both sides of the ball. I assume players like Gary Bryant Jr., Korey Foreman, Calen Bullock, and Jaxson Dart will all have significant roles next year. Outside of those players, it’s really a toss-up; Riley may want to start fresh completely or choose to keep the talent that’s already there.
Overhaul On Defense?
I fully expect this defense to look completely different next year. I’m talking from the players on the field to the scheme the coach uses. Whatever is changed or tweaked it’ll be an improvement considering this defense could not get off the field. Cal’s quarterback, Chase Garbers, only had 177 yards and a touchdown. However, he went 18 for 21 so very few mistakes were made on his end which means the defense couldn’t get off the field.
Todd Orlando runs a 3-4 on most downs, with new defensive coordinator, Alex Grinch, who earned his reputation with Washington State in 2015-2017, USC will most likely run a 4-2-5. The formation will help, but the real difference will be in the trenches. Alex Grinch prefers a “one-gap” scheme which allows the defensive lineman and linebackers to be responsible for one gap. As opposed to the 3-4 scheme which traditionally uses a “two-gap” when the defensive lineman has to strike the offensive lineman and extend. This means they’re forced to read the play and react after determining where the ball is flowing. When the one gap strategy is successful a lot of penetration can occur and plays can be made in the backfield at a higher rate.
Unfortunately when you don’t get penetration or get caught In the “wash” a running back could break off big runs. High-Risk defense but if everyone does their job it’ll make the lives of the defensive players easier.
End Of An Era
If you haven’t heard Lincoln Riley is going to be the new head coach for the Trojans, you’ve been living under a rock. There have been reports of Riley bringing some members of his staff at Oklahoma with him to Los Angeles. It’s been reported that Alex Grinch DC, Roy Manning DB coach, and Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh will be making the move as of now. Donte Williams, when asked if he will remain part of the staff, replied with uncertainty. I’d prefer him to stay because of the rapport he has with the players. Coach Williams also has a great track record recruiting for Oregon and USC. It wouldn’t surprise me if they move on just to restart.
2022 Is Very Bright
USC wasn’t exactly projected to win the PAC-12 after the firing of Clay Helton. However, they weren’t expected to struggle as much as they did during the remainder of the season. Jaxson Dart is clearly the starter for the foreseeable future and there are many hidden gems on this team. This year I don’t think they were able to manufacture momentum against a fairly competitive division. There is no question this roster will have a lot more young talent next year with all the recruiting Riley is doing.
A mixture of the high school talent in this year’s class and the talent this team already has will set them up. Teams like Utah and Oregon will be the bar for USC to meet or exceed. Both the programs won’t slow down, even with the head coach for Oregon, Mario Cristobal, leaving. If Riley can recruit well on both sides of the ball and gets to know the strengths of this team, “Why not us?”. I project it’ll take a few years to completely change the culture and gel into the fabric of this city, but, the future for USC football is very bright.