We reached out to SBN sister blog Conquest Chronicles to get a little more insight into the Trojans as the Huskies prepare for a big game against USC this Thursday night. Big thanks to Julian Lopez for taking the time to answer our questions!
UWDP: Cody Kessler is having another terrific season so far. Can you talk to us about his strengths and where he's improved? Are there any areas where he still needs to improve?
CC: Through four games in the 2015 season, I have seen Kessler starting to use more of his wheels when facing pressure. He has improved when throwing on the run and even though he was one of the best in 2014, his turnover rate has gotten even better. I would like to see Kessler throwing the ball deep on more of a consistent basis. A negative trait that Kessler is given is that his arm strength isn't going to "wow" anyone but he is so accurate and with his receivers, he doesn't have to go deep as often because the receiving core can turn 5-yard passes into 60-yard gains.
UWDP: Steve Sarkisian was known for his play-calling and was often praised by opposing coaches for his skill in this area. However he reportedly gave up play-calling duties this season to Clay Helton. Have you noticed any significant differences in the USC offensive approach this season?
CC: With Sark giving up the play-calling duties in favor of Clay Helton, the Trojans offense remains the same. The only difference is that when Helton was calling plays two years ago, the Trojans averaged more yards per play and converted at a higher percentage.
UWDP: USC's running game has been a 3-headed monster so far between Ronald Davis, Tre Madden and Justin Davis. Can you compare and contrast the strengths and styles of these three?
CC: Having so many healthy running backs at USC hasn't happened in awhile and the Trojan coaching staff is ecstatic that they have a 3-headed monster. Justin Davis probably is the best cutter of the group but has lost playing time to Jones II and Madden. The freshman from Texas (Jones II), is probably the fastest running back I have seen at USC since Reggie Bush. Once he gets into open space, good luck catching and stopping him. I knew he would make an impact in 2015, but I can't believe how successful he has been so far. He's averaging 8.1! yards per carry. Madden is your bruiser back, who is going to fight for every yard. On 3rd and short plays, I love when the Trojans hand the ball off to Madden.
UWDP:and his staff (Peter Sirmon & Keith Heyward) led a major upgrade in Washington's defense in their two seasons here, and Wilcox had a very strong run at Boise State, so it's been surprising to see the Trojan defense struggle under his watch. Have you been able to identify what the major issues have been with the defense?
CC: Last year, the Trojans left a lot of holes for opposing offenses whether it is being dominated up front on the line or miscommunication in the secondary. The Trojans brought in a lot of the top defensive players in the Class of 2015 and we are seeing a group of them already making an impact.
UWDP: Sark is obviously under a lot of pressure to win big this season. If he falls short of expectations, do you see AD Pat Haden's job also being in danger?
CC: Yes. Pat Haden would go before Sark goes is what I believe. The win at ASU was huge for Sark and if the Trojans get 10 or more wins in 2015, his job will be safe.
Thanks again to Julian for his answers. For more info on USC, head over to Conquest Chronicles.