It’s already been a weird season for the Southern California football team.
The Trojans have gone from the No. 8 team in the country in the preseason rankings to No. 6 through the first two weeks to unranked the past five weeks.
USC has a different head coach (Clay Helton) than it had five weeks ago (Steve Sarkisian). It has gone through a series of injuries, especially up front on the offensive line.
The Trojans are always loaded with talent, though, and they will bring that talent to Boulder on Friday. Buffzone.com caught up with Scott Wolf, who covers USC for the Los Angeles Daily News, to get his take on the Trojans.
Buffzone: How difficult was the midseason coaching change on the players? And how have they responded to having Clay Helton in charge?
Wolf: The change was pretty easy on the players because many of them went through it two years ago and, more importantly, because Clay Helton has bent over backwards to make sure they are having a good time playing. The players are loyal to Helton. They are not going to carry him on their shoulders like they did Ed Orgeron at Colorado two years ago, but they appreciate how he puts them first in his actions.
Buffzone: What does Helton have to do to make himself a legitimate candidate for the full-time head coaching job at USC?
Wolf: Helton probably needs to win every game. The fans are split as a poll I ran this week had 30 percent in favor of him returning, 40 perfect against and 30 percent undecided. The biggest thing in Helton’s favor is athletic director Pat Haden knows he can hire a safe, stable coach and realizes two years later he made a mistake not hiring Orgeron instead of Steve Sarkisian.
Buffzone: The offensive line has gone through some injuries and given up quite a few sacks this season. How is the health of that group coming into this game, and have they fixed some of their pass protection issues?
Wolf: The offensive line remains inconsistent. USC is currently using its No. 3 center, Khaliel Rodgers, and he has a sore shoulder. The top two centers and most highly regarded linemen, Max Tuerk and Toa Lobendahn, are out for the season. The line’s done OK without them, although it struggled when Arizona brought a lot of pressure last weekend.
Buffzone: USC’s defense has had its share of struggles this season. Where are the Trojans most vulnerable on that side of the ball?
Wolf: The defense has been vulnerable most of the season on the defensive line although it improved the past two games against Cal and Arizona. But the secondary was vulnerable last weekend, especially the safety spot. When USC shores up one area, another one seems to falter.
Buffzone: The Trojans have a trio of talented running backs, but has freshman Ronald Jones separated himself from the others?
Wolf: Ronald Jones is the most dynamic running back since LenDale White and Reggie Bush but has not gotten the carries until recently to show his true talent. He is on pace to break Charles White’s freshman rushing record and probably the one player who excites fans right now other than JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.