FOOTBALL Q&A: 'Neon Tommy' Sports Editor Talks Trojans
Published: Thursday, September 12, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 12, 2013 01:09
Jacob Freedman, a sports editor for the USC student-run website Neon Tommy answers some questions heading into Saturday’s matchup.
The Heights: So, what are your thoughts on this quarterback situation for the Trojans? Is starting Kessler the right move? What will it take for Wittek to see the field on Saturday? How do you think Kiffin has handled the position so far?
Freedman: It’s absolutely the right move, and it’s one Kiffin had to make. Kessler mentioned yesterday that it was hard to play while knowing that he could be taken out at any moment, and now those lingering thoughts should disappear. Kiffin hasn’t given specifics to why he chose Kessler, but said he’s now going to tailor the system to the redshirt sophomore’s strengths. Kiffin has botched the situation so far, as there’s no way two high school All-American QBs should combine to throw for 54 yards in an entire game, but this Saturday should reveal a USC team built around Kessler.
That being said, it will take nothing short of disaster (which can’t be counted out after Washington State) to see Wittek put in, if only because the time invested this week towards a one-QB system.
The Heights:Through two games the USC defense has allowed zero rushing touchdowns and just one passing TD. What makes the defense so effective?
Freedman: The Trojans’ front seven has a strong argument so far for being the best in college football. The 5-2 scheme under new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast has packages with five rushers, and the outside rushers in that scheme, Devon Kennard and Morgan Breslin, have been nearly unstoppable. USC also has four viable safeties, including converted linebacker Dion Bailey, and the fervent pass rush has resulted in a lot of hastily thrown passes that turn into interceptions.
The Heights: Opponents aren’t even averaging one yard per carry against USC. Some of the BC players have mentioned the unique alignment from the USC front seven. What do the Trojans do up front and how has it worked?
Freedman: The 5-2/3-4 scheme means that the Trojans either rush five linemen with the outside two standing up on the line, or rush three and send those two linemen back as outside linebackers. This gives the defense flexibility and allows players to sub in for certain packages to keep the defensive line fresh. The 5-2 sets allow for a swarming pass rush that has USC leading the nation in sacks (11) through two games, while the 3-4 helps limit plays on the edges of the field and cut down on extra-yardage plays out of the backfield.
The Heights: High-scoring game? Low-scoring game? What do you expect?
Freedman: Both teams have had success running the football, and I expect this to continue on Saturday. Because of that, I expect a low-scoring affair filled with long drives, strong defensive efforts, and a game where one or two crucial turnovers will swing momentum.
The Heights: Outside of the obvious guys like Kessler, Marqise Lee, and Tre Madden, who should BC be worried about on the USC offense?
Freedman: The forgotten man has been Nelson Agholor, who was expected to be Lee’s partner in crime at wide receiver this year. The sophomore has strong hands and runs great routes, but was targeted just once against Washington State. If Kiffin loosens up and trusts Kessler to throw down the field more this week, then Agholor will make BC pay if they double-cover Lee.
The Heights: What is the offense trying to do to create points, and what did it do that didn’t work against Washington State?
Freedman: What didn’t work against Washington State was rather than taking risks and trying to win, Kiffin called the game as if he were playing not to lose. This week, expect more passes over the middle and down the field, and a better balance of carries. Tre Madden said himself that he can’t carry the ball 32 times every game, so expect true freshman Justin Davis and Buck Allen to utilize their speed and try to create space by running to the outside, since bruising back Silas Redd doesn’t look likely to play.
The Heights: What outlook do USC fans and people close to the program have for this game? Are they expecting an easy win? A close game? Something in between?
Freedman: In the eyes of those following the program, the 2013 outlook has turned sour real quickly. There’s still skepticism surrounding Kessler and the offense, and few are expecting the two-touchdown win that the Las Vegas sports books are predicting for the Trojans. Trojan fans always expect USC to win, but I doubt the offense can rebound quickly enough to turn the game into a blowout.
The Heights: If you were Lane Kiffin and this were possible, would you trade Chase Rettig for Kessler straight-up, right now?