2016 Utah State Preview
First, the positives:
Special teams has improved: Despite a few moronic personal foul calls and one dropped punt (he had to punt all night though), the special teams unit was vastly improved and field goal kicker Matt Boermeester and punter Chris Tilbey look good.
SC should bounce back vs. Utah State: Coming off a 52-6 drubbing to #1 Alabama, SC is not in a position to look past a decent Utah State team. The worry earlier this year was that SC would be caught looking past Utah State with a big match-up at Stanford looming next week. However, those fears have subsided and the football program is looking to make a statement this week with a focused and disciplined effort.
It won’t be easy though…Utah State has earned a bowl bid in each of the past five years and last year they had a resounding victory over then top 20 Boise State (52-26) and played Utah (14-24) and Washington (17-31) tough. Their offense is improved and will look to establish a strong running game to test the thin SC defensive line. They ran for over 400 yards, including over 200 from the speedy Devante Mays in a victory over Weber State last week. They also boast a dual threat QB that SC usually has difficulty defending. However, SC’s defensive athleticism should be able to stifle the Utah State running attack and look for defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast to try and send a message the Alabama game was an aberration.
Defensively, the Aggies are mediocre at best and though they boast two potential NFL level corners, SC should be able to move the ball well. Expect SC to immediately look to establish a strong rushing attack and get the tight ends and Ju Ju Smith Schuster involved early and often. Scouts I have spoken to feel that SC will cover the 14 point spread unless the offensive line continues to disappoint and if that is the case, they could lose and it will be a very long season.
70+ players showed up to voluntary workout on a scheduled off-day: The captains of the football team organized a voluntary work-out on this week’s scheduled off-day and over 70 players participated.
Max Browne has a strong arm and should have a solid year if offensive line holds up: Though it was a rough overall outing for QB Max Browne, his arm strength and ability to throw a nice deep ball when the offensive line gave him time was evident. His arm is on another level compared to Cody Kessler. It will be interesting to see how he can throw in roll-out situations as SC definitely needs to add that aspect to the play calling with the offensive line struggling.
Now, the not so fun stuff:
Center Toa Lobdendahn out for the season with a torn ACL…explains some of offensive line problems against Alabama: One of SC’s best offensive lineman, Center Toa Lobendahn tore his ACL early in the game vs. Alabama. He finished the game with only one healthy leg. When you combine this with losing Tackle Chuma Odoga early in the game, and having an injured Chad Wheeler replace him, one can see why SC had so much difficulty against the best defensive line in the nation. It looks like SC will have to move former back-up Center Khalil Rogers back to his original position after shifting him to defensive line. The loss of Lobendahn is a significant and this will make two straight years he is out with an ACL tear (tore his other ACL last year).
Alabama has almost twice the football support staff of SC: I don’t know the exact numbers but quite a few sources have stated that Alabama’s support staff when it comes to recruiting, office support and outside analysts, dwarfs SC’s by almost 2 to 1…and now they are adding Steve Sarkisian to the mix in hopes to have him ready to take over as the OC once Lane Kiffin leaves for a head job. Despite its reputation as a big-time program, SC actually has a smaller support staff than many of the major blue-blood college football programs…
Clay Helton inherited a bad situation…a la Chris Peterson at Washington: When Chris Peterson was hired at Washington, I commented that Peterson was dismayed and told those close to him that he was shocked at the state of the program Sarkisian left behind. He told anyone that would listen it would be a three year process to right the ship in terms of the lack of discipline and structure in the program. Well, it is year three and Washington is currently ranked in the top 10…
I get the feeling that Helton is dealing with some of the same issues, but the problem for SC fans is that Helton doesn’t have the head coaching pedigree of Peterson, who was a candidate for the SC job when Sark was hired…
Three mediocre/puzzling coaching choices in four years catching up to SC: It is very difficult to create a consistent winning environment when the leadership of the program constantly changes, especially when the coaches hired have had a pretty short head coaching resume. Finding a top level/proven coach to run a major college football program is not easy and also expensive. They are a special/rare breed.
Frankly, SC was lucky that they stumbled upon Pete Carroll after the first few choices turned the university down. Clay Helton has a great football mind and is a good man that we all want to succeed. However, the worry from scouts and fellow coaches in the college football world from the day he was officially hired is that he doesn’t have the head coaching experience or swagger to have navigate SC back to an elite level. He was better off getting his feet wet at a place like Memphis before taking on this behemoth of a job.
Carol Skinner memoriam tid-bits:
*Pre-season All-American candidate, right tackle Zach Banner gave up 1 sack, 1 hit and 4 hurries vs. Alabama…he gave up only 1 sack, 2 hits and six hurries in all of 2016.
*The same person who was involved in the process of hiring Steve Sarkisian and stated at the time of the Sark hire “we made an amazing hire…you will be thanking us three years from now”. This person also feels that Helton is a “football genius” and the he will have SC winning 10 games in his third year...hmm….
*The Alabama game was the first time SC didn’t score a touchdown against an opponent since 1997.
*SC beat Utah State 17-13 in a nail biter in 2013.
*Top WR Ju Ju Smith-Schuster needs to catch the ball at least 6+ times a game and targeted at least 10 times for the SC offense to be successful. He had only 1 catch and targeted 5 times vs. Alabama.
*Fox Football analyst Joel Klatt recently tweeted about how bad the Pac-12 South has been recently: Colorado is 2-8 in last 10, ASU is 3-5 in last 8, SC is 0-3 in last 3, Arizona is 2-5 in last 7 and UCLA is 1-4 in last 5…
*The first 50,000 in attendance for 11 AM SC/Utah State kickoff will receive a Marcus Allen bobblehead doll.