A crushing dose of reality has hit USC, with a spate of injuries during the 14-10 loss at Notre Dame undoing the positive feelings engendered in the last three weeks by interim head coach Ed Orgeron.
The Trojans will be without tight ends Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer and running back Justin Davis this week against Utah, while top receiver Marqise Lee and top rusher Tre Madden are questionable, Orgeron said Sunday in a conference call with reporters.
Things we learned
From Jadeveon Clowney returning to form to Florida State's complete dismantling of Clemson, here are the 38 lessons learned from the college football weekend. More ...
USC is left with only one scholarship tight end on its roster, sophomore Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, who has caught one pass for four yards this season. That effectively removes any two-tight end packages from the game plan, a major blow to an offense that has frequently emphasized its "12" personnel because of a lack of healthy wide receivers.
Davis, a true freshman from Stockton, Calif. who has rushed for a team-high six touchdowns this season, suffered a leg injury against the Fighting Irish, while Madden did not play at ND because of a hamstring injury.
Lee missed the second half after aggravating a left knee injury that previously cost him one game, another blow in a dismal season for the talented junior. Lee ranks seventh in the Pac-12 in receptions per game and 11th in receiving yards per game and has caught just one touchdown, a far cry from his record-setting 118 reception, 1,721 yards and 14 touchdown campaign last season.
Only now are the full effects of the heavy-handed NCAA sanctions handed down against USC coming into focus, and will only get worse with one more recruiting class limited to 15 signings and one more season with a maximum of 75 players on scholarship.
Such conditions may limit USC's pool of potential head-coaching candidates and will definitely test the patience of whoever replaces Lane Kiffin.