USC Now mailbag: Seeing the Trojans through rose-colored glasses?

USC Now mailbag: Seeing the Trojans through rose-colored glasses?
USC Coach Steve Sarkisian holds up the Holiday Bowl trophy after the Trojans' 45-42 victory over Nebraska on Saturday. (Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press)

We are kicking off the New Year with the same old problems.

Cheers to 2015, which includes scholarship numbers, Steve Sarkisian, Justin Wilcox, Ed Orgeron -- and my rose-colored glasses?

Could you please tell me if the Trojans are at full scholarship strength now? I got so tired of hearing the Trojans only took 50 or so players to games.

-- Doug delCastillo

USC will not have 85 scholarship players on its roster for at least a couple of seasons.

For the first time in four years, USC in February can sign 25 scholarship players. It could take one or two more recruiting classes to get back to 85 because a large class of players will conclude their eligibility and leave after next season and others have left for various reasons.

USC's linebackers and defensive backs -- why are they always out of position and why can't they tackle? Yes, I've said this before.

-- Jeff Shinn, '75

I don't know why they appear at times to be out of position (and can't confirm that they are).

During practice defensive backs and linebackers participate in live tackling drills and drills utilizing bags and exercise balls (exercise ball drills are new with this staff).

I've seen coaches yell at players about tackling and watched them go through extra reps.

Practices did not always look physical, which translates to games.

Did Coach Sarkisian give Adoree' Jackson permission to do a flip in the end zone if he ran a kickoff back for a touchdown?

-- Sharon Cannon, Poway

I don't think Sarkisian gave Jackson permission to flip into the end zone, but it did not sound like he told Jackson not to.

Jackson said he spoke with Sarkisian before he did it and that the coach told him that if he drew a penalty "to just try to go out there and score another touchdown and get a stop."

Sarkisian said he did not condone it, but added, "We've got players that love playing the game of football and appreciate making their plays."

The secondary remains a serious problem. Justin Wilcox evidently is unaware that those position players need to be able to perform certain elementary functions like catching the ball. [John Plattenburg] failed to make no less than three easy interceptions. Again, even one announcer commented that No. 24 obviously cannot catch a football, basically he has "hands of stone."

-- Monsieur LaDue

P.S. Still believe Pat Haden made a huge blunder in not retaining Ed Orgeron.

USC's front seven benefitted when Su'a Cravens was moved from safety to linebacker, but it hurt the secondary.

The unit might struggle again next season without Gerald Bowman and Josh Shaw. It will depend on the development of Plattenburg, Leon McQuay and incoming freshmen.

Plattenburg had opportunities for multiple interceptions against Nebraska but struggled to catch the ball. A few passes bounced off his hands.

Defensive backs perform pass-catching drills at practice, but after the multiple missed opportunities against Nebraska -- and not just by Plattenburg -- it must be a point of emphasis in the off-season.

And P.S., other readers still agree with you on Orgeron.

They should call you "Lindsey Sugarcoat Thiry." I guess you see the Trojans through rose-colored glasses. You are pretty soft on them. Yes, I am a lifelong Trojan fan.

-- Patrick Bligh

Patrick, sorry your email is last. I finally decided to put down the Cardinal and Gold pom-poms I was waving around my living room and finished dancing in my USC Song Girl outfit to Conquest.

Whew, give me a second.

OK … I've been soft on them? Because I haven't jumped on the "Fire the coaches!" bandwagon?

In the latest "Five things we learned" post, I wrote that USC learned how to defend a Hail Mary and that Leon McQuay stepped up. Those are two positives.

I wrote that Jackson is a phenomenal talent who needs to play more on offense. This highlights Jackson's talent, but implies that coaches need to find ways to utilize him more.

And finally, two negatives. This team could not close in the fourth quarter. Also, it will be very difficult to replace Leonard Williams. Defensive line recruiting has not been strong and it does not appear a player has been developed to play in Williams' absence.

Now, please excuse me. The USC cupcakes that I've been baking are ready to be dusted with powdered sugar.

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