USC offensive line issues are 'a mixed bag;' Lincoln Riley to evaluate potential changes ahead of Utah
USC quarterback Caleb Williams was pressured 33 times in the 48-20 loss to Notre Dame last Saturday.
The Trojans’ star passer was sacked seven times over the first five games of the season. He has been brought down 10 times in the last two games, including six times by Notre Dame. Couple that with the knowledge that USC’s run game hasn’t produced 150 yards on the ground in any of the last three games and the offensive issues become clear.
USC is losing the battle at the line of scrimmage.
“It’s a mixed bag,” Riley said. “There’s not like one central issue where it’s like, we’re just not doing this one thing well. There’s not like one player where it’s like, man, the other four guys are playing unbelievable and it’s just one guy we have to make a change (with). We’ve kind of been sharing the mistakes.”
Riley said a handful of the sacks USC gave up on Saturday were a product of busted routes or holding onto the football too long.
But the Trojans’ coaching staff does plan to evaluate potential changes to make on the offensive line this week.
“We do have some other pieces there that we feel like can be part of it,” Riley said. “I think this is what playing some of those guys early like we did in the season and getting some different lineups experience gives you some potential options if you feel like you want to make a personnel change. We’re gonna evaluate that this week and see if that’s the right thing.”
In recent weeks, USC has used six players primarily at the five spots on the offensive line. Mason Murphy has come in to replace Michael Tarquin at right tackle, but the rest of the line has been pretty fixed. Jonah Monheim, Emmanuel Pregnon, Justin Dedich, and Jarrett Kingston have established themselves as the top guys.
Tarquin was handed a 39.1 overall grade from Pro Football Focus for his brief action. Pregnon had a 58.3 overall grade. No one on the offensive line was above a 70. Monheim is the only lineman to receive a 70-plus grade in any of the last three weeks.
“I think the bigger thing for us is, we just gotta get back to playing more 11-man ball,” Riley said. “There’s a lot of good on the tape, but the results have not consistently been there because there’s not been a lot of 11-man ball offensively in the first half against Arizona and then obviously for a big portion of the game against Notre Dame.”
Utah comes to Los Angeles on Saturday. It’ll bring a tenacious defense that will likely smell some blood in the water. Jonah Elliss ranks second in the country with nine sacks, and he spearheads a group that comes after the quarterback from every level.
The six sacks Williams endured against Notre Dame marked the second-worst game of his college career. The only other team that has brought him down more in one game?
Kickoff is at 5 p.m. PT on FOX.