• John Skinner

2017 Western Michigan Preview

Updated: Aug 27, 2018

Tight ends will spark offensive passing game:  It will take some time for the young SC WR to get going but SC is stacked at Tight End with a hybrid WR in redshirt sophomore Daniel Imatorbhebhe and big targets in junior Tyler Petite and redshirt freshman Cary Angeline.  The group is underrated nationally and will provide QB Sam Darnold with consistent targets.

Darnold’s release is 15% quicker:  The one knock on Darnold by pro scouts was his slow delivery of the ball.  He worked diligently this off-season on his mechanics and according to ESPN Sports Science, his delivery is 15% quicker and the difference is noticeable in practice.

Back-up quarterback situation is bleak: Darnold must stay healthy to match preseason expectations as he will have a huge target on his back.  Current back-up Matt Fink is not a true Division 1 level QB.  Heralded true freshman Jack Sears is struggling and needs a redshirt year to get acclimated.  Should Darnold be out for a multiple game stretch, look for starting junior WR Jalen Greene to take over at QB…he is without question, the second best QB on the team. It is surprising they don’t have him participating in some QB drills to prepare for an emergency scenario. Having him ready could be the difference in a win or loss.  Depending on Sears’ development, look for SC to potentially be in the market for a graduate transfer QB should Darnold head to the NFL.

Jones and Carr will be best 1-2 punch at running back since Bush and White:  As long as the offensive line can efficiently run block, junior Ronald Jones III “Ro Jo” and true freshman Stephen Carr may steal some of Darnold’s Heisman thunder.  Ro Jo is the leader of returning Pac-12 running backs in terms of longest runs from scrimmage and the minute Carr walked on the practice field, he has turned heads.  He combines top-tier speed with fantastic footwork in the trenches while already possessing good hands.  A pro scout told me that If it wasn’t for Ro Jo, Carr would be a true freshman starter and is a legit 5-star talent.  Junior Aca’Cedric Ware might see the field earlier then Carr in the first few games but from a talent perspective he will most likely be the odd man out.

Don’t sleep on RB Vavae Malepeai: His promising 2016 fall camp debut was ended with a broken collarbone and he was forced to redshirt. However, the former four-star RB from Hawaii dominated in the spring and has had a great fall camp. He has flown under the radar due to Carr’s emergence but expect to see him get carries, especially in short yardage situations.  He has great burst in-between the tackles.

Loaded at linebacker:  This is one of the best linebacking groups that veteran defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast has worked with at the college level. Ultimately, defense wins championships, and Porter Gustin, Ochene Nwosu and Cameron Smith will play as big a role as Darnold for SC to make it to the national playoff.

Pendergast extremely high on OLB Nwosu:  If you catch Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast in a social moment away from football, he will tell you that senior captain OLB Uchenna Nwosu has become one of the best, if not the best pound for pound defensive talent on the team.  He has improved dramatically, especially when it comes to the mental aspects of the game and is now considered a high-level NFL prospect.

Scouts are raving about dreshman defensive tackles Marlon Tuipulotu and Brandon Pili:  Both possess the athleticism and strength to be future All-Americans and will immediately be in the defensive line rotation.  They have helped ease the concern regarding the defensive line depth.  Fun fact- Pili is 340 pounds and can dunk a basketball and Helton describes him as a “340-pound dancing polar bear”

Offensive line run blocking could be a problem: The run blocking has looked shaky against the first team defense in camp and they will need to get this sorted out in a big way before Stanford rolls into town next week.   SC lost 112 starts on the offensive line between Zach Banner, Chad Wheeler and Damien Mama.

Cameron Smith out for the 1st half vs. Western Michigan: Due to Smith’s ejection from the Rose Bowl for a targeting call, he will have to sit out the 1st half on Saturday and Jordan Iosefa will start in his place…Iosefa had a fall great camp.

Walk-ons Mcgrath and Burdovich to handle kicking duties: Freshman Chase McGrath (not even listed in the media guide) beat out redshirt freshman Michael Brown for the placekicking duties.  Expect a decent drop-off in consistency compared to Matt Boermeester.  Surprisingly, junior Reid Burdovich displaced last year’s consistent Australian style kicker Chris Tilbey.

Western Michigan is not the team SC thought they were scheduling: If SC had a crystal ball when this game was scheduled a few years back, they would have looked elsewhere for a prep game to start the season.  Western Michigan is coming off a 13-1 campaign with it’s only blemish being a 24-16 loss to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl.  They had wins over Northwestern and Illinois. They did lose some huge components to that success in head coach P.J. Fleck (Minnesota), and the schools’ all-time leaders for passing and receiving. Despite that, they have 16 returning starters and they are not going to be intimidated by the Coliseum or the SC jersey.  They have a good offensive line, a stud CB who is a threat on special teams and a one-thousand yard rusher who is expected to be a high-level NFL pick.  Plus, the defense only gave up 19 points per game last year.

This game has “UGLY” written all over it: The Trojans should overwhelm WMU in the second half and salt away a victory with the running game.  A pertinent point to keep in mind though- A classic look-ahead game for SC with a 2:15 pm kick-off and temperatures expected to be over 100 degrees on the field.  The opponent is a talented non-Power 5 school that may not catch the Trojans’ full attention, with #14 Stanford coming to the Coliseum next week.

The bettor’s guide: The line is fluctuating between 27 and 28 points…USC only won two games last year by that margin (Utah State and Arizona)… The over/under is 58.5…SC was 8-5 against the spread last year while WMU was 10-4 and 6-2 away from home.  Dating back to 2014, WMU has won their last four true road games against the spread at Power five teams.

Fight on Max Browne, we are cheering for you- Former SC QB Max Browne will be the starting QB and team captain for Pittsburgh after transferring at the end of last season.  Max was a model student/athlete (graduated in three years with honors) and handled a tough situation last season with total class.

Carol Skinner Memorial Tidbit: This is the first time SC will play 12 consecutive games without a bye since the 1995 season.