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USC Now mailbag: Ronald Jones II, coaching search and the NFL

USC Now mailbag: Ronald Jones II, coaching search and the NFL
USC tailback Ronald Jones II heads toward the end zone against Idaho cornerback D.J. Hampton in the fourth quarter of a Sept. 12 game at the Coliseum. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

November football at USC should be nothing short of exciting during a time when many are in search of answers. Can Clay Helton win the permanent job? Whose names will emerge in the coaching search? Can the Trojans find their way to the top of the Pac-12 South?

Only time will tell. Until then, the mailbag.

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Although it took the Trojans half of the season to discover they are a running team, I am pleased they have recently started to commit strongly to the run. However, I am still disappointed that Ronald Jones II does not have more carries. He is clearly the best back. Why in the name of Tommy Trojan is RJ2 not getting more touches?

— Ian Lewenstein

This is a fair question.

Ronald Jones II makes something exciting happen almost every time he carries the ball.

Jones has rushed for 533 yards and five touchdowns in 70 carries.

He averages 7.6 yards a carry. That's 2.2 more yards than fifth-year senior Tre Madden and 2.7 more yards than junior Justin Davis.

Interim Coach Clay Helton said Jones did not get more carries in the second half against California because of a sore knee.

USC's issue here — and it's a good problem to have — is that Madden, Davis and Jones are each reliable tailbacks.

Jones' time will come.

Is there any chance that USC will approach coach Ed Orgeron after the season for 2016?

— Chuck Poindexter

Unlikely.

Ed Orgeron's run as interim coach in 2013 was something short of magical because of losses to rivals Notre Dame and UCLA.

USC finished 10-4 (6-2 under Orgeron) and ended the season without Orgeron, who left the team before a Las Vegas Bowl victory.

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Orgeron likely would have been a safer hire than Steve Sarkisian. But it's doubtful that USC will try to re-create the past.

Just wanted your thoughts on whether you think Clay Helton has a chance to become the next head coach at USC. I believe he is doing an admirable job. He seems to know where the weaknesses are (lack of physicality) on the offensive and defensive lines and holes in the secondary (he has addressed both of these problems). However, I'm not sure that USC is the place for on-the-job training.  

— Darnell

Helton is an unlikely choice as USC's next coach unless the team wins its remaining games against Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and UCLA.

Even then, it is far from guaranteed that he will earn the job. Helton, however, has the tools to make an excellent head coach.

The team has responded positively to the adjustments he's made to practices and the changes he's made off the field.

Unlike Orgeron's run in 2013, it appears the team's success is fueled less by emotion and more by a return to fundamental and physical football.

There are those who are going to think I'm crazy for asking this, but do you think USC is giving any thought to hiring the coach who beat Pete Carroll in the Greatest College Football Game Ever Played, the 2006 Rose Bowl?

— Denys Arcuri

You're crazy for asking.

No way would USC hire Mack Brown.

Biggest concern against Arizona? Any sense we might be too relaxed after two straight wins?

— David Shotenkirk, @Shotty1717

Save this answer because it's a rare one: zero concerns.

Arizona lost last week to Washington, 49-3. The Wildcats are playing less-than-inspired football, and there appears to be a state of disarray in Tucson.

USC, which had every reason to quit on the season, is hungry to prove it is a better team than a 5-3 record reflects.

There is no time to relax with a trip to the Pac-12 Conference championship game still within reach.

How many players will leave for the NFL?

— Raoul Estrada, @Butcher58

Predicting who will leave for the NFL is always difficult, unless it's a player who is projected as a top pick.

USC doesn't have many juniors or fourth-year juniors who are expected to leave, with the exception of linebacker Su'a Cravens.

Right tackle Zach Banner and left tackle Chad Wheeler likely will request a draft grade, though I doubt either leaves early.

Questions or comments about USC? Email me at LNThiry@gmail.com or tweet @lindseythiry and I will respond to select messages in a weekly USC Now mailbag.

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