USC Now mailbag: Play-calling, finishing and Trojan drama

USC Coach Steve Sarkisian has handed off play-calling duties this season.

USC Coach Steve Sarkisian has handed off play-calling duties this season.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

It’s almost time for kickoff, which means it’ll soon be time for a mailbag full of game reactions.

It’s been a long off-season.

Do you think Pat Haden took the play-calling duties away from Coach Sark? I never thought Sark ever considered it.

— Oscar Duh Grouch, @oscarscabinets


No, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Sarkisian and Haden discussed it before the decision became final.

Sarkisian admitted it was not an easy call for him to make, but it is in the best interest of the team.

Remember, former coach Lane Kiffin was too stubborn to give up calling plays after the Trojans stumbled to a 7-6 finish in 2012 and then he was fired five games into the 2013 season.

Sarkisian’s decision to have offensive coordinator Clay Helton call plays should allow him to be a better game manager and provide input in all three phases, rather than solely being concerned with the offense.

This season is full of P’s: promises of no more alcohol, potential of a national championship and pitfalls. Will the great individual athletes come together with a game-long team effort or will last year’s game-ending performances percolate like stale coffee?

— Calvin Lau


That’s a lot of P’s, Calvin.

This season we will see if USC learned how to consistently finish after several late fiascos last season.

The challenge will be for returning players to shut out the “Oh, no, not again” mind-set that crept into their heads at the end of games last year and for them to pass on a winning mentality to the many freshmen who will be on the field.

Sarkisian’s decision to embrace the role of head coach and give up calling plays should have a positive impact on how the team finishes games.

Is Ronald Jones going to get a legit shot at tailback?

— D. Pillette, @DPillette

Absolutely, USC will need contributions from freshmen tailbacks Ronald Jones, Dominic Davis and Aca’Cedric Ware.

Fifth-year senior Tre Madden will start in the opener against Arkansas State because junior Justin Davis will be sidelined because of a rib injury.


Jones had an impressive training camp despite dealing with a bout of homesickness.

I write today in regards to the copious amounts of popcorn my family has consumed while watching the USC football “theatre of the absurd” over the last decade. If this is going to continue, we will need to increase our butter budget. Is there any other program in college football that has created more national attention than that of the Trojan slow-motion train wreck that amazingly continues to unfold? This has become more insufferable than sitting through a Transformers movie. You keep thinking, “OK, it’s got to end soon,” but it doesn’t.

— Michael Sweeney

Michael, your thoughts presented without further comment.

Thanks for writing.

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