USC Now mailbag: Trojans recruiting, Ed Orgeron and the fourth quarter

USC Now mailbag: Trojans recruiting, Ed Orgeron and the fourth quarter
Members of the USC football team celebrate their 45-42 win over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 at Qualcomm Stadium. (Donald Miralle / Getty Images)

Questions about USC? Email me at or tweet @LindseyThiry and I will respond to select messages in the USC Now mailbag on Fridays. 

I'm sure you dread the question, but now that Drevno is leaving SC, is the door slightly more open for a return by Orgeron? I know he was a defensive line coach when he was last there but I believe he has previous experience with offensive lines. After all, wouldn't you need to thoroughly understand the principles of play for both lines in order to coach either of them well? I'm simply one of those fans who think Orgeron would be an asset if he returned, particularly with this seemingly ideal opening and his well-known abilities at recruiting.


-- Don Green, Merced, CA

Don, you know the mailbag so well! You're right, I do dread this question.

Despite offensive line coach Tim Drevno leaving to join Jim Harbaugh's Michigan staff, Ed Orgeron is not returning.

Orgeron has no experience as an offensive line coach based on his biography in USC's 2013 media guide. It would make sense that he has a working knowledge of techniques and schemes, but there is difference between having the knowledge and teaching it.

Orgeron has a great reputation as a recruiter, but the current staff is doing a good job. The Trojans' 2015 class is ranked third nationally by and fifth by

Offensive line coach, who are coaches being considered?

-- S. Valencia

Unlike Coach Steve Sarkisian’s coaching searches last year, the search for a new offensive line coach has been kept pretty quiet.

The coaches' convention starts this weekend in Louisville, Ky., so I expect some news about candidates to emerge.

Could you clarify the number of scholarships USC has for the class of 2015 as well as explain how their brain trust navigates around that number? I have been told that they have 25, which may or not be true.

-- Scott Killips

USC started the year with 25 available scholarships in its 2015 recruiting class.

On Day 1 of 2014 fall camp, Sarkisian gave a scholarship to kicker Matt Boermeester. Boermeester counted as a blue-shirt recruit, which means he was a non-recruited player who walked on and was awarded a scholarship to count towards next year's class (2015).

That left 24 scholarships.


Five of those 24 were given to players who signed financial-aid agreements: Quarterback Ricky Town, linebacker Cameron Smith, receiver Isaac Whitney and offensive linemen Chuma Edoga and Roy Hemsley.

Those five players are scheduled to enroll in classes Monday. If they do, 19 players can sign on signing day.

I have a question about USC football recruiting. I know currently their class stands at 21 players leaving them only three remaining spots in the class. However, it seems there are more than three players really good players USC still has a chance to get. How can they maneuver to pick up more than three more recruits?

-- Jacob Johnson

There are 21 players committed, but only five are guaranteed a scholarship. The others are verbal commits.

Town, Smith, Whitney, Edoga and Hemsley signed financial-aid agreements, which is binding for the university – but not the player. Those five will begin classes Monday.

The other 16 players are verbal commits, which means they can change their commitment or USC does not have to honor the offer.

I've always been unclear about this. Since Leonard Williams and Nelson Agholor are leaving early, can SC replace their scholarships? Additionally, someone like Victor Blackwell too. Since he is no longer on the team, can SC replace his scholarship too?

With Cody Kessler staying another year, do you think Max Browne will stay especially with Jalen Greene behind him and Town and Darnold coming? I would hate to lose Max. Did you graduate from SC?

--Steve Woo, SC class of '82

USC is unable to replace the scholarships vacated by Leonard Williams, Nelson Agholor and Victor Blackwell.

The incoming recruiting class is capped at 25 scholarships.

Scholarships can be awarded to walk-on players who are already on the roster.

Quarterback Max Browne will be a player to keep an eye on in the spring and fall. Browne has said that he planned to stay at USC and I think he will if he is the clear No. 2 behind Kessler.

However, if there is an indication that he could be beat by a younger quarterback he could transfer.

And no, I graduated from the University of Washington.

With the recent commits after the All-American bowls it appears likely that USC will have more than 24 letters of intent on signing day. What is the plan for that scenario?

--Rudy Harvey

USC won't have more than 24 letters of intent. That's all it will have and that could be the problem.

It is most likely that USC will delicately inform recruits before signing day that they would be wise to seek opportunity elsewhere for various reasons.

That gives the recruit time to change his commitment and USC time to save face on dropping a commit.

With [Rasheem] Green, [Iman] Marshall, [John] Houston, [Porter] Gustin, and [Osa] Masina still out there, but only three scholarships left, how does Sarkisian make room?

Seems like all five have a good shot at being Trojans. Who's out if they all want to go to SC?

--Eric Johnson

This was easily the most popular question in the mailbag.

USC has 21 committed players and 24 available scholarships.

Gardena Serra High defensive lineman Rasheem Green and linebacker John Houston, Long Beach Poly defensive back Iman Marshall and linebackers Porter Gustin and Osa Masina are five recruits who are must-take players if they commit.

Every year there are commits who either change their mind before signing day or are informed by the staff that the offer no longer stands because of various reasons, including academics.

Who did the Trojans sign to bolster the defensive line? They seem really thin there.

--Mike Blum

Here is a post I wrote on the defensive line after Leonard Williams announced for the NFL draft.

Three linemen have committed, Fresno Clovis North's Jacob Daniel, Los Angeles Loyola's Christian Rector and Henderson (Nev.) Liberty's Noah Jefferson.

Gardena Serra's Rasheem Green could still commit.

Welcome back to "normal" times. The one thing that keeps gnawing at me regarding SC play this year was the amazingly consistent play of the defense in the fourth quarter. Where I think the guys should have been in attack mode, they tended to be conservative, even passive and slow. Waiting for the clock, waiting for something. Was that Sarkisian? [Justin] Wilcox? Exhaustion? Indifference about what might have looked like an SC win, so why worry? This issue has not been addressed in any real way but I like to think that if Orgeron had been the defensive line coach, we may [not] have lost some of those giveaways, anyway, but there would have been zero questions about the intensity of the line play or the one strategy which linemen love... attack and then do it again.

--Jon Parssinen

After USC defeated Nebraska by batting down a Hail Mary in the Holiday Bowl, I asked multiple players why the team struggled to close out its opponents in the fourth quarter.

The answers varied.


Su'a Cravens: "I just think it's a maturity thing. I just think it's us not making the plays that we normally make and we're not executing in the fourth quarter because we continue to get fatigued and it's hard to make plays when our offense is going no huddle and there's a lot of pressure on you."

Justin Davis: "I don't know it's just a matter of you got to stay intense for entire games. Somewhere in there we got off a bit and it hurt us a little bit."

Claude Pelon: "We didn't execute when we had to."

Kevon Seymour: "The first half we dominate and come out strong and in the second half we just come out flat as a whole team on offense and defense."

Anthony Sarao: "It just come down to execution and us maturing as a team and getting better throughout the season."