Well, Whittingham said he was going to re-evaluate each and every position this week and come up with a game plan for USC. So I’ve been thinking about what went wrong against ASU on defense (not offense, I’m not Nostradamus or anything) and what/whom migh tbe able to fix it. There is a glaring defficiency in passing coverage/ athleticism and speed/ play making in the Linebacking Corps so far this year. I see that we have the tools in the program but we might have to do some shuffling. Here’s my starting 11;
Front 4: #8 Fakahafua, #44 Krueger, #92 Lotulelei, #99 Krueger (if Healthy)/ #9 Reilly
The Corps: #4 Blechen, #35 Hooker, #40 Hale
Back 4 (Nickel,Dime): #5 Lee, #19 Chappuis, #18 Rowe (if Healthy)/#27 Morris-Edwards, #26 Lacey, (Nickel) #28 Topps, (Dime) #23 Freeman.
I know, I know, A lot of you are going to jump down my throat about Moe Lee’s performance last week. I think that he is still the guy to put out there against Marquis Lee (Lee v. Lee…..) because of his matchup of size, speed, and ball skills. We just need Lee (Moe) to be more assignment sound and he’ll be mostly fine. He just needs to make Barkley think twice about throwing to Lee. I would also give him Safety help over the top from the FS on most plays because of Moe’s aggressive nature to try and make the big play.
You’re asking about Robert Woods’ and how could we overlook him? I also like the matchup of Ryan Lacey with him due to Lacey’s spped and overall dependability. Plus Woods has been under performing thusfar this year and is clearly not Barkley’s “go to guy”.
We need the SS free to provide run support on the overload and to watch USC’s athletic TEs who are known for punishing teams by owning the seem up the middle. However they are not infallable, I think that with enough homework Chappuis will be able to read their TELL SIGNS of blocking or release blocking and be able to bottle his man up. Obviously he will need to do a better job of tackling next week, but I believe he will be just fine with a very specific task like cover the TE or 3rd reciever depending on what you see.
Blechen in an ideal situation would be playing SS but we are obviously not in an ideal situation. Blechen is a playmaker, a sledge hammer, and the boy can cover most WRs and any TE. He is also athletic and can get to the QB on blitzes. I would put him at SLB obviously to be the spearhead on the edges in support of stopping the run game trying to get outside. Also he and Chappuis can be interchangable in blitz scheming due to their playing the same position and it will give a smart QB different looks to keep him from getting comfortable.
Hale I also want on the outside because of his speed and athleticism, but due to his lack of game experience I would put him on the weak side and give him the assignment of covering the flat and containing the backside to eliminate reverses and the RBs from cutting back the field. He is also just fast enough to sneek up on Barkley’s blindside and Matt will be too busy keeping an eye on Blechen and Star to remember that Utah has put another speedster LB at his back. I LOVE this matchup and it could be a game changer in a game that we need to make defensive plays to win.
Hooker I would Put in the middle due to the fact that he is so raw. Watched his highlight video on signing day and came away thinking “this is PAC 12 talent". I can’t wait to see what Utah can do with him. He is fast, has a nose for the ball in the run game and behind Star and Dave you can just run to the ball and blow people up if you’re fast enough to make plays on the edge. His inexperience yet again leads me to believe that he would do best in the middle behind our Stud that will get so much attention. His athleticism alone is what makes me think he belongs on the field and could make some plays for us. I also think that with the outside speed of Blechen and Hale, Fehoko could also fill this role, but my initial thought was to put speed on the field.
I don’t believe I need to explain the defensive line besides that fact that the DEs can also drop into coverage to help with diversifying our blitz options.
Well, I hope that this helps raise spirits and tides some people over through the bye week. Utah mathematically still has a shot at a 10 or 11 win season, here’s to hoping they can figure out how to get that done. I still see all games as winnable as long as we come up with the right game plans. Utah has the athletes and fans to compete with every team on our schedule, so let’s give em’ all hell!