Helton: We'll have to lean on the run
USC’s football team travels to Austin, Texas on Saturday to take on the Lone Star State’s beloved Texas Longhorns. The Trojans are coming off a 17-3 loss to Stanford, a game in which the offense never got going.
A lot of that can be blamed on an ineffective passing game.
In his first real test, freshman JT Daniels showed he was just a freshman. He completed only 16 of his 34 passes for 215 yards and two interceptions. USC’s three headed tailback combination combined for 129 yards rushing on 31 carries.
It’s worth noting Daniels bruised his hand against the Cardinal. But if that’s worth noting, it should also be said that he also showed signs of struggles in the season opener against UNLV. The USC offense exploded in the fourth quarter to make a close game into a blowout, but at one point, late in the game, Daniels was hovering around a completion percentage of 50-percent and looked lost.
Daniels finished the UNLV game 21-of-35 for 282 yards and a touchdown. So far on the season he’s 37 of 69 (53.6% completion rate) for 497 yards. He has thrown 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions.
USC’s head coach has noticed the struggles his young quarterback has faced. He also knows Texas Longhorn defense coordinator Todd Orlando will bring a multi-faceted zone pressure scheme. That scheme could cause serious issues when Daniels drops back into coverage. That’s why he plans to lean on his tailback.
“It’s going to be important in this game,” Helton said this week when asked about his rushing attack. “I look at how effective Texas was in the game last year in the run and held Ronald (Jones) in check in that game. With a young quarterback with all those zone pressures, we’re going to have to lean on that run game like we have in the last two games.”
Helton also looks forward to relying more on his most talented runner.
“I’m excited that Stephen Carr its getting healthier,” Helton said. “We upped his touches from 9 to 14 in the last game and he’s looking healthier and healthier be able to carry the load.”
Another take would be to place the fault of USC’s offensive struggles on the offensive line. That group was supposed to be a veteran bunch who led USC’s offense. It hasn’t gone well so far. The first two games have caused many fans on social media outlets to question whether the line is up to that task.
When asked if he was concerned about those players, Helton said he wasn’t.
“Not very,” Helton said. “I’m more concerned with the looks that they’re going to get to get this week. I think they’ve done a nice job in the run game the first two games. I think anytime you see the holes they created for the runners in those first two games, it pleases you. Some of the zone pressures have gotten them and on a couple physical beats versus some good players. But I’m not worried about it. I know they’ll keep improving as the year goes on. But scheme wise, they have a tough road this week.”
When pressed again, Helton says his players are getting healthier and will be better down the road.
“I’m proud of what they’ve done,” Helton said. “I think the runners are running well. They’re coming off on the ball. I think their combination blocks, they’re heavy men, they’re 300-pounders across the board so they are moving people. I think when you get a little bit healthier, with Austin (Jackson) getting a little bit healthier and hopefully with Toa (Lobendahn) continuing to have improved health, get a less sore hip on Chuma (Edoga), and keep on feeling better, I think we’ll do better in pass protection.