Last year, Texas traveled to Los Angeles and lost a 27-24 double overtime thriller to USC. On Saturday, the Trojans travel to Austin as the Longhorns look to avenge last season’s loss. USC will feature several new faces on offense, including true freshman QB JT Daniels. It has been a rocky start to the season for the Trojans, but Clay Helton and offensive coordinator Tee Martin will still bring a lot of talent into DKR on Saturday night. Let’s take a look at what to expect:
True freshman JT Daniels has performed like…a true freshman. Daniels, a former 5-star recruit in the 2018 class, has thrown 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions through the first two starts of his career. The potential is undeniable, and it’s tough to make judgments about a QB who made his second career start on the road against Stanford, but Daniels is still learning on the fly. He completed just 16 of 34 passes against the Cardinal while tossing 2 interceptions. Daniels is also nursing what head coach Clay Helton said is a bad hand bruise. He is still expected to play Saturday, but the Trojans will lean heavily on their rushing attack and quick passing game to try to ease Daniels into the flow of the game.
Senior Aca’Credric Ware and sophomore Stephen Carr lead the pack in the backfield. Ware did not record a carry in the 2017 matchup versus the Longhorns, but Carr finished the game with 9 carries for 28 yards and 3 receptions for 42 yards, including a big reception from Sam Darnold to help set up the game-tying field goal in the 4th quarter. Carr is a real weapon in the passing game and the Trojans will almost certainly try to get him isolated with a linebacker 1 v 1.
Ware, a Texas native who attended Cedar Hill High School, leads the team in carries through two games, carrying the ball 28 times for 159 yards and a touchdown. Both running backs have been victims of shaky blocking from the offensive line.
Tyler Vaughns leads a receiver corps that no longer includes Deontay Burnett or Steven Mitchell, both of whom had good games against Texas a season ago. Vaughns stands at 6’2, 185 and was utilized in the slot and outside against Stanford.
Michael Pittman serves as the #2 option. Pittman has 4 catches for 101 yards through 2 games, but will cause some matchup issues with his size (6’4).
It has been tough to get a read on the USC receivers, considering the inconsistency in the passing game through the first two weeks.
The Trojans offensive line has been whipped the first two games, allowing 2 sacks against UNLV and 4 against Stanford. The Longhorns are still searching for their 2nd sack of the season, and Todd Orlando vowed to bring more pressure against the Trojans to help the secondary. Texas was able to generate a lot of push inside last year against USC, and the Trojans allowed the same type of penetration early and often against Stanford last weekend. If the Longhorns are able to get to JT Daniels and place the USC offense into predictable passing situations, Breckyn Hager and Charles Omenihu are bound to take advantage.
The Trojan offensive line does feature experience, with the starting 5 composed of 3 seniors and 2 sophomores, but the unit has yet to gel together to help out their young quarterback.
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