To help prepare for this week’s game against the Trojans, we decided to review some game film from USC’s first two matchups with Fresno State and Stanford. The major headline coming out of the first two week was the devastating injury to sophomore quarterback JT Daniels and the rapid accent of freshman Kedon Slovis. While that might be the biggest talking point for the local media, there are plenty of other observations that we were able to take away from those games.
Here are the top five things that we noticed.
Don’t kick the ball to Velus Jones Jr
In the very first play of the game vs Fresno State, Jones Jr busted off a massive return deep into Fresno territory only to have it called back because USC put two guys with the same number out on the field. The Bulldogs kicker didn’t learn his lesson and in the second half Velus went untouched for 100 yards to the house. He got some great blocking but it was his pure speed that made the difference.
BYU will need to win in every aspect of the game and taking risks on special teams is a dangerous venture. Skyler Southam needs to put on his big boots and make sure the kickoffs sail deep into the end zone.
Doing a quick USC film study for a piece on @VanquishTheFoe going up tomorrow.— Jake Welch (@BYUAllBlue) September 11, 2019
First thought, DO NOT let Velus Jones Jr return the ball. Kicking it out of bounds if needed. Dude has some serious wheels. He had another very long return called back in this Fresno game. pic.twitter.com/8MNZG74lr5
USC puts up big passing numbers with the Air Raid, but they can still run the rock
The big news in Los Angeles is the arrival of Graham Harrell and the vaunted Air Raid offense that he learned from one of BYU’s finest graduates, Mike Leach. While the passing attack will be their main source of big plays, they still have some horses at running back that can tote the rock. Stephen Carr on has 12 carries on the season but he’s averaging a solid 7.4 yards per carry. Vavae Malepeai is their workhorse (35 carries) and also averages a decent 5.0 yards per carry.
In the video below, you’ll see Carr get the handoff on a on outside zone read and easily take it to the house. The Stanford defense doesn’t do itself any favors by getting out of position but Stephen still has to make a man miss, which is no sweat for the junior running back.
This will be a main focus as BYU is near the bottom of the NCAA in rushing defense after two weeks. The Trojans will most definitely throw the ball but the front seven needs to be ready to stuff the run.
USC might put up big passing numbers with the Air Raid, but they have guys that can run the rock.— Jake Welch (@BYUAllBlue) September 11, 2019
Stephen Carr is averaging 7.4 yards per carry. pic.twitter.com/FVLdj8WhgZ
USC has some athletes on defense
To the surprise of no one, USC has some great players on defense that can make big plays. They’re not always the most disciplined bunch but based on pure talent alone they can cause a lot of problems. Standford’s David Mills was getting his first start and looked the part for most of the first half. In the video below you’ll see him try a dangerous throw to the sideline which gave Greg Johnson an opportunity to make a play on the ball. BYU has already faced a solid secondary in Utah, so facing this caliber of athletes won’t be new for BYU. They just need to be ready for the passing lanes to be a little bit smaller on Saturday.
USC has athletes on both sides of the ball and will make you pay if you give them a chance.— Jake Welch (@BYUAllBlue) September 11, 2019
Not a great throw by Mills but CB Greg Johnson still makes a great play in the ball. pic.twitter.com/rlWV9Rja88
USC’s defense can be beat with discipline, execution
Call me Bronco Mendenhall, but based on what I saw in the first two games, it looks like USC’s defense is vulnerable against a disciplined offense that executes. Now BYU’s offense hasn’t been exactly that the first two games but we saw glimpses of it against Tennessee.
In the clip below you can see Fresno State get a score thanks to a great play concept and some crisp routes from the Bulldog wide receivers. The USC defense tends to rely on their talent and when Fresno, a team the infinitely less talent, executed they were able to put up points. If BYU can avoid penalty and miscues, they should be able to move the ball.
Trying to out-athlete USC on defense will be tough but you can beat them with good fundamentals and execution.— Jake Welch (@BYUAllBlue) September 11, 2019
Here Fresno State WR Chris Coleman runs a clean route on a great play concept to get the score. pic.twitter.com/OpaCzamVj0
Tackling will be priority #1 for the BYU secondary
The whole premise of USC’s offense is spreading the field so that they can put the ball in the hands of their best playmakers and let them do work. The Air Raid has worked for years at schools like Texas Tech and Washington State, often with players that were passed over by the blue bloods. Now that system is in place with a bunch of 4 and 5 star recruits.
Tyler Vaughns is their big time receiver and here in this clip he shows us why. A decent route, a quick shake of the defender and an easy score. BYU’s defensive backs will need to make sure these big playmakers for USC don’t get free or else they will make them pay.