Courtside: Andy Enfield could have a lot riding on USC’s Saturday game

first_imgIf you’re looking for intrigue surrounding USC’s Saturday showdown with UCLA, you don’t have to look very hard. The Trojans have a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament to play for, a March Madness berth to earn and a crosstown rival to gain bragging rights over for the second time this season. A win in this game alone shouldn’t cool Enfield’s seat entirely, but it would go a long way toward putting USC in March Madness, which should. Plus, not to mention, it would likely spoil UCLA’s comeback season and hamper its chances at a March Madness berth, and it’s no secret that the athletic department loves seeing the Bruins fail. If the Trojans were to fall to UCLA, they’d have to dig themselves out of a hole larger than one win against one of said bottom feeders. They’d have to take care of business in the first round, then go and handle a tough opponent such as Colorado or Arizona State in the quarterfinal, and at that point, they would need a win to avoid dropping two out of their last three games against good but far from unbeatable opponents — not a great look for a bubble team ahead of the tourney.  Yes, Enfield has brought in several solid recruiting classes since taking over, notably No. 7 in 2019, No. 18 in 2018 and No. 19 in 2014. No, it’s not quite Duke, which has had four top classes and six top-three in that span, but it’s solid nonetheless. The parallels, while parallel, aren’t exact. Helton’s seat was hotter entering the season, his team wasn’t as good, the cold stretch was longer, the letdowns were more letdown-y.  Let’s start with the tangible ramifications of the matchup, because there are plenty, and they all tie back into Enfield. After USC’s huge wins against Arizona and Arizona State, I’ve heard a lot of people claim the Trojans now need to win just one more game to get into the Big Dance, whether that win comes Saturday at Galen or next week in Vegas. That seems awfully overgenerous and oversimplified. Yes, UCLA has been playing great basketball recently, and a win would certainly stand out on the Trojans’ resume. But if USC were to knock off UCLA at home but then lose to some subpar team like Washington or Oregon State in the first round of the Pac-12 tourney, is that really enough? Can the selection committee accept a team which has not only failed to pick up a truly impressive win away from home all year, but has also shown an inability to take care of a conference bottom feeder when the stakes are high? Look, I really don’t like framing other USC sports teams in the context of the football program, but this one just feels too obvious. The Trojans started off the season hot and looked promising, then hit a cold stretch in the middle of the season. Eventually, they got out of it, but not before fans started calling for the job (or head, in football’s case) of the head coach. Then they picked it up at the end of the season and set themselves up for a huge showdown against their most hated rival.  But one thing about this game that shouldn’t fly under the radar of USC fans (but probably will fly under the radar of those in control at Heritage Hall) is how Saturday could change the fate of head coach Andy Enfield. And what do the Trojans have to show for it? Two March Madness appearances? Two combined wins in those tournaments — one of them coming in the First Four? What good is strong recruiting when it doesn’t turn into wins?  But if USC can take care of UCLA and earn a spot in the second round in Vegas — whether that’s via a bye or a first-round win — the Trojans will be sitting in the driver’s seat for cracking March Madness. It will also put Enfield in the driver’s seat for keeping his job. And while the topic hasn’t been publicized much, if athletic director Mike Bohn and other department officials haven’t started having conversations about Enfield’s future with the program, well, they should.  I understand this team is young and inexperienced. But in today’s college basketball landscape, that’s what coaches have to deal with. What plagues this team at times is indiscipline, and that has to be an indictment on the coaching staff.  But Bohn’s apparent approach to the situation was telling. Like he said in his introductory press conference at John McKay Center Nov. 7, good programs finish strong.  But that’s the problem: They haven’t made the tournament since 2017. And if this year’s group can’t do it, there has to be a long look into whether the program is under the right leadership.  And that starts tomorrow. Nathan Ackerman is a sophomore writing about sports. He is also an associate managing editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Courtside,” runs every Friday. Enfield and the Trojans have established themselves as a good program. But they have to finish strong.  One coach came out on top in that regular season finale, and I hold that had he not, he’d have been long gone. The other, we’ll see.  On the surface, this looks like an unquestionably successful season for a team that isn’t known as a traditional NCAA basketball powerhouse. The Trojans are 21-9 and have played themselves into the conversation for the NCAA Tournament, which they haven’t made since 2017.last_img read more

Snap Counts: Ronald Jones, Darrel Williams, Diontae Johnson potential waiver pickups, fantasy sleepers

first_imgMaybe, just maybe, this could also be something more. Smith is one of the more athletic backup tight ends in the league, and Marcus Mariota has managed to turn Walker into a decent fantasy tight end in the past. Maybe It’s Smith’s turn to slide into that role and do it with more athleticism than the late-career Walker has.Week 11 of 2018 can point us to Smith’s limited fantasy upside: He caught six-of-eight targets for 44 yards. The next week, he caught two passes for 63 yards. With athleticism like his, he might be worth a deep-league stab if he continues getting snaps. And if this trend keeps up, Walker’s declining fantasy utility might soon reach zero. For snap count reactions for every team, click here. WEEK 5 NON-PPR RANKINGS:Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | KickerWe have to acknowledge a big hit we took in the snap analysis department in Week 4: Devin Smith was the darling of last week’s article, and he had a whopping zero fantasy points on Sunday night. He still played more than 80 percent of the snaps for Dallas, but he wasn’t targeted. There’s more to fantasy production than just these numbers, and Smith is proof.It also seems like we jinxed Jamaal Williams by talking him up last week, as he was injured on his first play of Week 4. At least we provided some solid insight on Preston Williams, who continues to produce decent numbers in a stinky situation in Miami.WEEK 5 PPR RANKINGS: Running back | Wide receiver | Tight endFor those of you who might be wondering about a few young WRs who haven’t been putting up numbers — Will Fuller V and Calvin Ridley — it’s not the snaps that are the problem. Both are playing nearly every play for their teams – they’re just simply not producing.Check out our 32-team breakdown of Week 3 snap counts here.LISTEN TO THE SN FANTASY WEEK 5 PREVIEW PODCAST BELOWBuccaneers Snap Counts: Ronald Jones vs. Peyton BarberFor the Jones truthers out there, it’s been a difficult year-plus since the Bucs drafted him out of USC. He went from rookie sleeper to not even getting 25 carries through all of 2018, and he got a very good look at the inside of the Tampa Bay doghouse. Then, after a Week 1 that saw Jones outplay Barber, the Week 2 carry breakdown went 23-4 in favor of the incumbent.The past two weeks, things have seemed to change: Jones was outsnapped slightly in Week 3, 28-23, and then passed Barber with a 36-19 advantage in Week 4. Apparently the fact that Jones has averaged more yards per carry all season has finally started to translate into more playing time.We saw what Jones could really do against what was supposed to be a strong Rams’ front Sunday, as he rushed 19 times for 70 yards and a touchdown. He also had one 12-yard catch, which, while not his game, can only help ingratiate himself to coach Bruce Arians.There’s decent odds that at some point in the next couple weeks, Barber gets a heavy share of the carries and makes it feel like picking up Jones was a waste. But it finally seems like the second-year player has turned the corner from a playing time perspective, which makes him one of the most attractive waiver-wire adds ahead of Week 5.WEEK 5 DFS LINEUPS:Y! cash | Y! GPP | FD cash | FD GPP | DK cash | DK GPPChiefs Snap Counts: Darrel Williams vs. LeSean McCoyLast week’s snap counts looked to go in Williams’ favor just because McCoy left the game early with his ankle injury. But for the second straight week, Williams led Kansas City RBs in snaps. He was the man on the field for two-minute offense and saw enough goal-line carries to turn two into touchdowns. Things would all change if Damien Williams returned for Week 5. If he doesn’t, though, Darrel remains in strong fantasy lineup consideration, just about as much as Shady. That’s now back-to-back weeks of double-digit fantasy points for Darrel, and he’s seen nine targets across the two games. It wasn’t like it was a huge disparity in Week 4: 36 snaps for Darrel, 32 snaps for McCoy. But the week before, it was a slightly injury-aided 37-26 in favor of Darrel. He isn’t going anywhere while Damien is out.Week 5 poses a tricky test for setting your fantasy lineups when it comes to these Chiefs backs — Kansas City plays on Sunday night, meaning you’ll mostly be locked into your strategy by the time we know who’s active or inactive. Damien’s injury has been serious enough that his status has been decided in advance the last couple weeks, so maybe that will happen again. If Damien is out, both Darrel and Shady are good plays in Week 5.MORE WEEK 5 DFS: Stacks | Values | Lineup builderSteelers snap counts: Diontae Johnson is a WR sleeperIn Week 3, it was James Washington outsnapping Johnson, 49-42, but it was Johnson who caught the long touchdown. Johnson one-upped himself in Week 4, catching a 43-yard touchdown and finishing with six grabs for 77 yards. He led the Steelers’ wideouts in targets.Whatever belief there might’ve been that Washington would rekindle his Oklahoma State connection with Mason Rudolph seems to be a thought of the past. Instead, Johnson has emerged as second fiddle to JuJu Smith-Schuster in his first year out of Toledo.Johnson was actually third in snaps for the Steelers’ WRs for the second-straight week, as it broke down 45 for James Washington, 43 for JuJu Smith-Schuster, and 37 for Johnson. But he’s produced each of the past two weeks for Pittsburgh despite that breakdown. Johnson evidently is a three-wide, passing-down producer for the Steelers.You can’t expect Johnson to catch a long touchdown every week, but the Steelers seemed to have figured out a successful offensive mix on Monday night. They involved two backs in the rushing and receiving game, allowing Rudolph to find a rhythm before he took a shot or two downfield. It seems like right now, Johnson will be that deep option. That’ll lead to some boom-or-bust nature, as those throws won’t always connect. But when Pittsburgh has good matchups, Johnson’s put himself into the WR3/FLEX conversation. Bonus Steelers’ analysis: Jaylen Samuels played 27 snaps and ran 10 times, caught eight passes and threw three more (they were all little pop passes, but they count as passes either way). That’s involvement on seven of every nine snaps he played, an absurd rate. If this is how Pittsburgh plans on utilizing Samuels to make Mason Rudolph’s job easier, he makes for a very intriguing fantasy option, especially in PPR leagues.WEEK 5:Top waiver pickups | FAAB planner | Trade values | Snap countsBills Snap Counts: Dawson Knox is a TE sleeperBefore we dig too deep into this, a disclaimer: We have no idea what’s gonna happen when Tyler Kroft returns. The Bills sought after Kroft in free agency, and maybe the former Bengals backup will push Knox out of the way. Instead, though, I think Knox will retain his role as the leading snap-getter among Buffalo tight ends. When they selected him in the third round out of Ole Miss, Knox was considered a raw athlete who would need time to develop. He caught 15 passes across nine games in his final season with the Rebels, but Knox has shown an early ability to make a difference on NFL fields. I can’t admit to have seen every Bills play this season, but Knox has stood out when I have watched.He’s got that rare size-speed combination that only the best tight ends have, and he’s turned it into 3-67 and 3-58 across Weeks 3 and 4. That’s included a couple of tackle-breaking runs after the catch and an immensely difficult catch while laying out backward in Week 4. Fantasy owners need not worry about whether Knox makes the right read on a run block or always runs the perfect route as long as he doesn’t make too many rookie mistakes. As long as the gifted Knox remains on the field, he’s going to start showing up on weekly highlight reels. Maybe that doesn’t quite translate into a starting fantasy TE in Year 1, but it will soon enough. Keeper owners need to take notice, and Knox should be a good bye-week fill-in in single-season leagues, too.Titans Snap Counts: Jonnu Smith vs. Delanie WalkerIn Week 3, Smith and Mycole Pruitt started to eat into Walker’s snaps, but it looked like just a bit of rest for the veteran. Then in Week 4, Smith and Pruitt both outsnapped Walker, who was on the field for less than a third of Tennessee’s snaps.This may be nothing, and Walker could go back to seeing the majority of the Titans’ TE snaps, especially if Tennessee is trailing. It could be only something in reality, where Smith and Pruitt see the field more but don’t mean anything for fantasy purposes. That was the case in Week 4, when Tennessee targeted the tight ends three times — Walker twice and Smith once.  The Week 5 fantasy football waiver wire doesn’t seem that exciting, but if you break down NFL snap counts, it makes Ronald Jones, Darrel Williams and Diontae Johnson sound a lot more exciting than first meets the eye. All three are talented players that have faced workload concerns, and all three showed last week that when given the chance, they can be fantasy sleepers who can produce. They aren’t just waiver pickups or free agent adds — they’ll also be right in the middle of Week 5 start-or-sit conversations.There’s also a couple of young, athletic tight ends who caught our eye after Week 4: Buffalo’s Dawson Knox and Tennessee’s Jonnu Smith. Knox is a rookie, while Smith has teased with his talent a few times in the past. Both look like they might’ve usurped the starting jobs that they weren’t expected to have, and at least Knox is worth a look for everyone who’s been struggling at TE. last_img read more