Chat with Garry Paskwietz
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, WeAreSC blogger Garry Paskwietz stops by to chat some USC football.
Paskwietz is the Publisher of WeAreSC and has been covering the Trojans since 1997. Paskwietz is also a co-host of the USC Football radio pre-game show
Send your questions now and join Paskwietz every Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET!
MJ (Davis, CA)
I have not seen many references to DJ Morgan this spring. How is he doing? Now that Silas Redd is injured, who do you see - based on performance so far - emerging as the backup to Redd once fall practice begins?
Garry Paskwietz (5:06 PM)
D.J. has looked good on a few reps but not at the level to stand out yet. As you say, this injury to Redd provides a real opportunity for D.J. and Buck Allen to really make an impression on the coaches. Justin Davis could get a longer look as well. I don't think there's a clear-cut leader for the backup role to Redd, especially since Tre Madden and Ty Isaac will be added to the mix in the fall. The best thing D.J. has going for him in this competition is that he brings a speed element to the table that just can't be found in the others.
Chris (Granada Hills)
Why are the coaches so set to make Aundray Walker into a LT? The man is a guard and a very athletic one at that. He just struggles in space.
Garry Paskwietz (5:07 PM)
That is a call Lane Kiffin made last spring and he seems set on sticking with it. The physical traits of Walker are tempting, so I can understand that part of it. If Walker ever puts it together he could be an NFL-level talent.
Hanz Moleman (Springfield)
I understand football is contact sport, but it seems injuries have plagued this program for the last few years, particularly hamstring and knee injuries.What is to blame? Poor strength and conditioning coaching? The athletes? Depth?
Garry Paskwietz (5:10 PM)
The USC injury issues haven't been anything greatly out of line with the majority of college football programs. It just seems as if they are a bit more magnified with the reduced roster due to the sanctions. Because of that, it will be real interesting to see if Lane Kiffin continues to hit during practices in the fall, even as he states he wants to bring an increased physical foundation to the program.
Aloha Garry. Why hasn't USC offered Dwight Williams? This kind of reminds me how USC waited to the last minute and offered Jason Gibson and by then it was to late. The only reason I ask is they're both from Serra, a USC pipeline, and now it seems Williams has lost interest in USC. Do you think this will effect Adoree Jackson decision on being a Trojan? Mahalo, Danny
Garry Paskwietz (5:14 PM)
Aloha Danny. I think Williams is a player. Reminds me in a lot of ways of a bigger Dion Bailey in high school. I don't know the specific reason why SC hasn't offered yet, but I have heard that some wonder about which position he would play in college. Would he grow into a LB in the 5-2 or possibly be a safety? I think he's just a ballplayer who would fit on the team in some way. I don't think any offer or non-offer to Williams would impact Jackson. Mahalo.
Scott (Los Angeles)
Is the new Trojan D more of a 5-2 or 3-4? The 5-2 seems logical to use against a run oriented spread option (Oregon, Arizona) but might be burnt by the "back-out" and teams that throw to the flats.
Garry Paskwietz (5:16 PM)
Clancy Pendergast has said you could probably apply both terms to the defense, but he calls it a 5-2 because of the gap assignments of the linemen.
Kiffin appears to me to be very aware of stats. When making the decision on a QB (which I assume will happen early in fall camp) do you think he will just break down the film and look at the stats? Will Kessler's ability to make things happen be ignored when selecting the starting QB except how it shows up in scrimmage stats?
Garry Paskwietz (5:19 PM)
I'm sure stats will play an important role in how the starter is chosen. During the competition between Cassel and Leinart, it was a big part of how Leinart stood out to Chow. Kiffin has made a point of saying "Cody did what Cody does" after the scrimmages when Cody has made unique plays. That tells you he notices that part of his game, but how much that will impact his eventual decision is something we just don't know yet.
Matt (Hermosa Beach)
Garry, Do you think SC has a lack of talent at the CB position with Robey leaving and not landing Ramsey? And do you think this could affect them this season? They need Adoree.
Garry Paskwietz (5:22 PM)
I think it was a double whammy that hurt. SC had a chance to have both of them in the rotation in 2013. That would have been a pretty big difference compared to now having neither. I think Kevon Seymour is going to be big-time at some point, so he is set at one spot. The other spot has some pretty good players in line, but nobody has jumped up yet. If nobody claims the spot I'm still not ruling out Josh Shaw returning to corner. I agree that Adoree' Jackson is a huge priority, an elite corner from a school that has sent plenty of players to SC lately.
Robert (Los Angeles)
Garry who would you compare the QBs on the roster to as far as NFL QBs or former USC greats? Do you see the players responding to one guy over another?
Garry Paskwietz (5:28 PM)
Kessler has been the one standing out the most so far, in part because of the injury which has sidelined Wittek. I made the comparison on the WeAreSC message board this week that Cody is reminding me of Rodney Peete in some of his traits. Two tremendous athletes, neither of them a pure drop-back passer but both with the innate ability to stay calm when things break down and just make something good happen. Wittek is more of that drop-back guy, a big guy with a big arm. Max Browne has physical traits which remind me of Peyton Manning coming out of high school -- a little skinny, a little gangly but incredibly accurate and savvy about playing the position. So far I don't notice any big difference in the players responding to one guy versus the next. These are three pretty good quarterbacks and the other players understand that.
Strength and conditioning have been a recent problem - we keep hearing the sanctions as the excuse - how is this being addressed? Something needs to change in the preparation so we aren't gased at the end of games.
Garry Paskwietz (5:29 PM)
I think the biggest change comes in the decision to be more physical in practice. Football is still a contact game and players need the reps that come with practice to really refine that part of their game. The more that is reduced in practice, no matter what the reason, the greater chance it has to impact the team. Kiffin has said the Trojans will continue to hit, at least through the spring, even though they are battling through multiple injuries right now.
JOE (HUNTINGTON PARK)
How did Jabari Ruffin look in his first year of spring ball? Is he a full-time DE now or is he still a hybrid DE/LB?
Garry Paskwietz (5:31 PM)
Ruffin is playing the Sam linebacker role, which is basically the stand-up end spot, and he is behind Devon Kennard on the depth chart. He had the play of the day on the opening day of spring with an interception after dropping back in coverage. He hasn't stood out much since, but he's got a real opportunity to contribute this year and then slide into the starting spot when Kennard leaves.
Chris (Hermosa Beach)
Buck Allen, by all reports, is looking impressive this spring at tailback. Will his continued strong performances translate to any playing time this season or will he simply go back to being buried in the depth chart behind Redd and Morgan when they return from injuries?
Garry Paskwietz (5:35 PM)
It's way too soon to really know the answer to that. Buck has looked good at times, especially in the scrimmage last weekend, but he hasn't separated himself from the other reserves yet. These next three weeks will be critical for Morgan, Allen and Davis since Redd will be out and they will be splitting reps. When fall arrives there will be Madden and Issac added to the rotation, so if Buck or the others want to make their case for more time in the fall, now would be a good time to do it. The good news for Buck is that this is the best he's looked since he got to SC.
huntingtonharvey (Orange County)
Garry, how does Breslin look adjusting to playing in space? He'll have to drop into coverage at times in this hybrid position like Clay Matthews. Is he fluid enough?
Garry Paskwietz (5:38 PM)
Morgan is an interesting player to watch in practice. He doesn't really do much to stand out in any of the drills, but when it comes time to scrimmage he usually ends up with a sack or two. It was the same way last year when he arrived from junior college. There was no way to predict he would do what he did in 2012 based on what he showed in practice. I think he's going to do just fine in the new spot because it will allow him to really get after the quarterback, which is something he is particularly good at.
Any chance, due to the results of the lawsuit between McNair and the NCAA, that we will get any reprieve from the schlarship limitations? It seems obvious to all that the NCAA overstepped its authority.
Garry Paskwietz (5:40 PM)
Yes, there is a chance. Pat Haden has said that USC could take a look at revisiting some of the issues if there is any new evidenced that comes from the McNair case, particularly in the emails from the NCAA staffers. Nobody really knows what Haden would need to see in order to act, but the fact that he said it's a possibility means that there is at least some kind of a chance.
Vegas Mike (Las Vegas)
Gary, Im curious as to the level of involvement with Lane Kiffin's program and his relationship with former Trojan players and and potential coaches. Are ex-Trojans supportive of LK? Also why do you think LK did not make a concerted effort to bring in at least one former Trojan in as a coach? Pete Carroll was very good with this.
Garry Paskwietz (5:45 PM)
I think former players want to win and they have a unique understanding of the expectations that are in place at USC. Right now those expectations aren't being met, and the former players are as blunt as anyone in their opinions of why that is or isn't happening. I thought it interesting to see Kiffin bring in someone like Tony Boselli to speak to the players after a recent practice. I think moves like that are good to help keep the former players involved and to let them interact with the current players.
MJ (Davis, CA)
Any indication as to where Bailey may end up playing once he's healthy? Is it possible that he may play more than one position?
Garry Paskwietz (5:46 PM)
The coaches are being very clear in saying that no decision has been made yet on a position for Dion, but he seems to be awfully light these days, as if his body is getting ready for a move back to safety. One former USC defensive back thinks he can play a role that is similar to what Troy Polamalu played for USC.
Mike (Long Beach)
Is it true Trojans will return to the traditional black cleats next year? I really hope so. I thought the gaudy cleats they sported made us look and play like Iowa St.
Garry Paskwietz (5:47 PM)
That is a rumor and it has been tweeted by some players, but nothing is confirmed yet. I think a move back to black cleats would be met with resounding approval by the Trojan family.
Chris (Granada Hills)
What is going on with Charles Burke? Is he making any progress?
Garry Paskwietz (5:50 PM)
Charles is having to play an interior tackle spot this spring on the D-line due to the fact that three interior players are currently out with injuries. Burke had a sack in the scrimmage on Saturday, but my guess is that he will be at one of the stand-up end spots in the fall.
Mitch (Laguna Beach, CA)
Gary, injury information has been more free-flowing this spring. Is this a product of the time of year and Kiffin plans to revert back to last season's policy during the fall and regular season, or has he modified his stance some? This extra info has been appreciated and must make your job easier. Thank you.
Garry Paskwietz (5:51 PM)
The injury restrictions have been relaxed for spring, but I don't know what the policy will be for the fall. Hopefully there are no issues and things can continue like this.
Kalven (Bay Area)
Chances we lose Casey Tucker to UCLA?
Garry Paskwietz (5:53 PM)
I think UCLA is just one of the many schools that will be coming hard after Tucker, and I would definitely add both in-state schools to that list. The SC coaches are going to have to stay on top of this one throughout the process.
Gregory (from the OC)
Garry, what possible experimentation could we see in the OL during the next three weeks?
Garry Paskwietz (5:56 PM)
The rotation at left guard and center should be really interesting. Max Tuerk was getting the reps at center with Marcus Martin at left guard, but in the last two practices before the break we saw those two players switch at times. Kiffin said it may continue when the team returns. I could really see either combination at play here. Kiffin said they are two of the top five O-linemen on the team, so they both need to be in the lineup one way or the other.
Garry with the depth concerns on the defensive line, could Cody Temple provide some depth at the position? I know he has been riddled with injuries at USC, but if healthy have you seen any signs of production from him?
Garry Paskwietz (5:57 PM)
I do think Temple has a chance to be a contributor, but he hasn't been healthy yet. He has not practiced this spring.
Hey Garry. Things look promising, so far. Seems like there might be some parallels between SC this season and Notre Dame last season - favorable schedule, coach on the hot seat and a team a bit under the radar. Any thoughts?
Garry Paskwietz (5:59 PM)
I think those thoughts are nice, but for this team it's first things first. Have a good spring and get the fundamental issues in place for this team in terms of an identity on both sides of the ball.
Is the linebacking crew responding well to the coaching of Mike Ekeler? Does he seem to be a coaching upgrade at the position? And does he really oversee only two starting positions, or does he also help coach the two stand-up defensive end/linebacker hybrids?
Garry Paskwietz (6:01 PM)
Yes, the players are responding very well to Ekeler. He has a lot of energy on the field. He handles the two ILB positions. The other spots are on the line with Orgeron.
Sam (Los Angeles)
Hi Garry. I know the 5-2 defense is pretty good against the run, but not the pass. Did Clancy Pendergast address how the 5-2 will defend the pass in spring practice? I know we are pretty stacked on safeties, what about CB?
Garry Paskwietz (6:04 PM)
One of the major benefits of the 5-2 for the passing game is that the increased pressure on the quarterback usually results in the ball being thrown quicker. This allows the corners to be more aggressive in their coverage because they don't need to hold it as long. So far, the corner position is not yet settled and it's something that needs to happen soon. Kevon Seymour has been solid, but he missed the last two practices before the break. Other than that there are no obvious answers.
Garry Paskwietz (6:04 PM)
Thanks everyone for coming. See you next week.