2018: Tim Drevno (probably) still sucks but it's USC's problem now

Submitted by Bambi on September 20th, 2018 at 4:38 PM

The Michigan fan base collectively celebrated when Tim Drevno was shown the door this offseason, paving the way for new fan favorite Ed Warriner to come in and save our broken OL, simplify our schemes and fix our pathetic pass protection. The jury is still out on Warriner (early returns seem good but we need time), but I wanted to look at our former OL/OC. Drevno left Michigan and returned to USC as their RB coach working under Clay Helton and OC Tee Martin. To start, lets look at the situation Drevno was walking into at USC.

*All recruiting info from 247.

2017 USC

  • 11-3 (8-1 in Pac-12) record.
  • Pac-12 champs.
  • Lost to OSU in the Cotton Bowl.
  • 16th in S&P+ Offense.
  • 41st in S&P+ Rushing Offense.
  • 2591 rushing yards on the year, averaging 185.1 YPG (39th) on 4.8 YPC.
  • Leading rusher Ronald Johnson had 1550 yards on 5.9 YPC.
  • 484 YPG Total Offense (13th).

USC had a pretty good year last year and a good rushing attack to go along with it. Seemed like a nice spot for Drevno to walk into. Now lets look at what was returning for Drevno to use in 2018 from the 2017 team.

Key USC Offensive Personnel Changes

  • QB Sam Darnold (1st round pick)
  • RB Ronald Jones (2nd round pick)
  • C Nico Falah (UDFA)
  • WR Deontay Burnett (UDFA)
  • WR Steven Mitchell Jr. (UDFA)

So USC did lose some talent from the 2017 offense. Darnold is the obvious big one, and they also lost their leading rusher, 1st and 3rd leading receivers, and starting C.

That being said there was still a ton of talent left on this offense. USC returned their next 3 leading rushers, all of whom rushed for at least 5 YPC on 50 attempts. Stephen Carr was the biggest name, a 5 star freshman who rushed for 363 yards on 65 attempts and caught another 17 passes for 188 yards. The other two backs were Vavae Malepaei and Aca'Cedric Ware (now a RS SO and SR respectively), and with Malepaei as a top 250 recruit and Ware a 3 star around 500 in the composite.

In the WR corps USC brought back their 2nd, 4th and 5th leading receivers. This would be Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman Jr. (both current RS SOs who were top 60 recruits) who had 809 and 404 yards respectively and starting SR TE Tyler Petite (top 250 recruit) who had over 300 yards as a JR. The group also had 4 more receivers entering their 3rd year in 2018 on the roster (two 4 stars, two 3 stars).

Only losing their starting C meant that USC returned 4 starters on the OL which is a big plus. These starters were LT Toa Lobendahn (5th year senior, 4 star), LG Chris Brown (5th year senior, 4 star), RG Andrew Vorhees (SO, 3 star) and RT Chuma Edoga (SR, 5 star). Lobendahn and Brown were multi year starters before 2018 and well regarded recruits, Edoga played as a SO and started as a Junior in 2017 and was a 5 star. The only question mark would be Vorhees, who started as a 3 star true freshman. But That line helped up well enough for the 2017 we see above so clearly he wasn't a turnstyle and held his own.

USC also added the 4th ranked recruiting class headlined by 5 star QB JT Daniels and 5 star WR Amon-Ra St. Brown. 

In order to replace the departed players, USC went with Daniels at QB, a rotation at RB mainly of Ware and Carr, and they moved Lobendahn from LT to C (he seems very Mason Cole like, starting as a freshman and had already played T and G before this move) and started true SO Austin Jackson (top 40 recruit) at LT. At WR St. Brown has emerged as the go to guy with Pittman and Vaughns also being main contributors.

So as you can see, USC still had all the talent and experience needed on offense going into 2018. The only major downgrade would be Darnold to Daniels. Lets see how this has panned out in 2018 so far.

2018 USC

  • 1-2 (0-1 in Pac-12) record.
  • 87th in S&P+ Offense (S&P doesn't have detailed numbers out yet so no rushing number).
  • Averaging 109.3 YPG (116th) on 3.6 YPC.
  • Leading rusher Ware has 167 yards on 5.2 YPC.
  • 383 YPG Total Offense (91st, behind Michigan at 84th).

Yikes. So as you probable knew, USC is bad this year and bad on offense. Down over 100 YPG total so far on offense, nearly 75 of that rushing, averaging less 1.2 fewer YPC, and their leading rusher is averaging .7 fewer YPC and around 55 YPG. Those numbers are ugly. 

Now obviously we can't blame this all on Drevno. He's only the RB coach, USC replaced a 1st round NFL QB with a true freshman who should still be in high school (drink), and without Darnold Helton has looked mediocre at best as a HC. That being said USC's run game is pathetic right now. As I showed above he had plenty of talent and experience to work with coming in. The run game last year wasn't incredible but it was above-average to good. The foundation for a good rushing attack was there, and Drevno has taken it from good to almost worst in the country.

Now there's some small sample size stuff going on in there. Only 3 games have been played and one of them was this past week where USC only rushed the ball 12 times with their RBs. But those 12 runs only went for 24 yards, and as team they had -5 (!!!!!!) yards on 16 attempts. Imagine if you ignored their 23 yard TD run. USC threw the ball 48 times on the road against a P5 team with a true freshman QB! They lost by 23 but the game was withing single digits until midway through the 3rd. At that point USC had called 12 run plays out of 45 total plays. They had no faith in their ability to run the ball coming into the game. Drevno had already killed USC's run game before the 3rd game started.

To be fair, the week before against Stanford USC actually had a great rushing performance. 114 yards on 37 attempts, a whole 3.1 YPC! We're using great in the relative sense here. So against P5 opponents, USC has 53 attempts for 109 yards. In terms of YPC, that comes out to not good Bob.

Their week 1 game vs UTEP actually was good, 219 yards on 38 attempts for 5.8 YPC. Unfortunately for USC, UNLV gave up over 7 YPC on 37 attempts to UTEP in their only other FBS game. So once again, yikes.

USC's struggles as a whole aren't on Drevno. But it's hard to blame anyone else for the running game when so much of last year returned coming to this year, and what didn't was replaced by top tier talent. Darnold to Daniels probably has some effect, but to me this falls squarely on Drevno. And even though he's the RB coach, with his experience I wouldn't be surprised if he had some run game coordinator/OL duties as well, which would look even worse for him.

The sad part is, of the ousted 2017 Michigan OL coaches, Drevno's probably the one in the better situation right now. Frey at FSU is a whole other post/issue for another day. I also have a lot more faith in Frey since FSU's OL has been a tire fire for a while and you can't fix that in one year as we've seen.



Mpfnfu Ford

September 20th, 2018 at 4:46 PM ^

Pro Drevno:

Clay Helton is a shitty coach who lucked into Sam Darnold and now without him is exposed as the lousy teacher/schemer he always has been, and USC is suffering for it. You can't ask Drevno to walk in as a RB/Pass Pro coach and make their offense sing when the bones of it don't make sense and require an NFL ROY candidate for it to function. When USC gets that kind of QB, they should be natty contenders, not a clear step down from the national elite.


The NFL poisoned his mind and he's forever going to spend the rest of his career wandering the earth making every line call insanely complicated for no reason until he ends up owning a series of Dennys franchises.

Big Boutros

September 20th, 2018 at 5:19 PM ^

Tee Martin aka Pee Fartin is the culprit. Darnold was a pick machine but he covered for some holistically shitballs playcalling. Helton + Martin = Hoke + Nuss. Utter disaster of a staff.

The weird part is that Helton seems to infect previously-great coaches with his shittiness. USC got special teams genius John Baxter back and their special teams are ass flavored this year.

Cali Wolverine

September 20th, 2018 at 8:28 PM ^

Sorry...USC does not suck this year because Drevno came back.  USC sucks because Darnold left and Helton is a mediocre coach (plus all of his assistants are mediocre as well).  


USC looked great against Penn State in 2017 and was good against a mediocre PAC 12 last year...mostly because Darnold was a stud and carried the team.  Drevno sucked at Michigan, but did wonders at USC before he came to Michigan.  But as someone that goes to every USC home game...Drevno is not the root of their problem this year.  And the PAC is mediocre again so even though SC is 1-3 they will probably win the PAC South and have 10 wins this year...which will be an inflated number, and justify keeping Helton for another year. :(


September 22nd, 2018 at 11:37 AM ^

Exactly. And for this OP, it seems to be based WAY too much on blind conjecture, as he's admitted...


"And even though he's the RB coach, with his experience I wouldn't be surprised if he had some run game coordinator/OL duties as well, which would look even worse for him."


So the OP doesn't really know what Drevno does, just that he sucks and should be blamed for USC's offensive woes.


September 20th, 2018 at 8:30 PM ^

Drevno doesn't seem to be lighting things on fire.  Well, in opposite world, yeah - he's lighting things on fire.  But Helton sucks, has sucked, and will continue to suck.


September 20th, 2018 at 9:08 PM ^

No point dumping on Drevno.  It didn't work out in the Midwest for him. He had a very hard time recruiting tackles.  He's a west coast guy and the same thing befelled John Cooper ...  in fact, I can't think of a single west coast coach that panned out in the Midsest . Etc Mike Riley didnt make it in Nebraska either 

So be it.


September 21st, 2018 at 12:02 AM ^

Nice analysis, but it is a little silly.  Drevno is in no way responsible for USC's cratering this year.   Stephen Carr was supposed to be a stud coming out of highschool, but I watched a couple of games with Ronald Johnson and that guy is a total beast.  You can't lose a talent like him and Darnold and expect to be as good.   Why they are cratering is probably on Helton and maybe Tee Martin.


September 21st, 2018 at 10:41 AM ^

OP, thanks for the info but I stopped reading here

Now obviously we can't blame this all on Drevno. He's only the RB coach


I understand Drevno isn't  popular guy around here, but blaming him for USC's offensive trouble makes no sense. He's the RB coach. It's like blaming JBaugh for our own O troubles. Sure he may be a contributing factor, but there is an OC & HC above him.


September 21st, 2018 at 10:53 AM ^

So USC lost 4 of its top 5 skill players, one of whom was a first-round draft pick quarterback, and is coached by Cali Hoke and it's somehow the RB coach's fault that the offense sucks? I was no fan of Drevno, but come on. RB coaches do not make an offense hum in any way. 


September 22nd, 2018 at 12:34 AM ^

Saw Drevno sitting in the coach’s box next to Tee Martin tonight.  My immediate thought, “Thank God he’s there and not in our coach’s box tomorrow.”


September 22nd, 2018 at 10:43 AM ^

Maybe I'm in the minority here, and I think the OP has done a good analysis, but I guess I don't really get the point of these threads.  I hate to be "that guy" who bitches about why we have threads, but it seems that there's a lot of people that get some satisfaction / vindication that previous coaches who didn't succeed here are also not succeeding in their new stops.

I'm not sure why we necessarily bear them any ill-will (I can see a bit for Durkin given the timing of his departure).  In general, I think the majority of our previous coaches were probably good men who tried hard to do a good job 1) to win, and 2) to make sure the team / kids are successful.  I don't think any of them really had any malicious intentions.

So I guess it always strikes me as a bit odd when we have people who track their performance at their new destinations and report back if they are really bad.  Personally, I think it's best if we just acknowledge that they didn't succeed at Michigan for whatever reason, they probably did their best for the kids, and just move on.  No need to follow them to prove how bad they were.  Not sure what it helps.  Just my opinion, of course.

Edit: also just want to fully acknowledge that Drevno probably bears very little responsibility on how bad USC is given that he is merely the runningbacks coach, which I don't even believe he's ever coached before.