Weiner: Drake London Easing USC’s Long Root Canal

Posted on October 7, 2021

  By Matt Weiner, SuperWest Sports

So far for USC Trojan football fans, 2021 has felt like the dentist’s appointment from hell.

Heading into the season, there were slight fears that their pain levels would be akin to a cavity or getting a tooth filled in.

Two humiliating home losses and one coach getting fired later, they’ve undergone what’s felt like a five-week long root canal operation.

The only palliative to maintain their sanity through these tough times has been phenom wide receiver Drake London. 

London has been able to maintain USC fans’ mental hygiene by leading the nation in receiving yards (670), catches (48) while also leading the Pac-12 in all-purpose yards (672) and not returning a single punt or kickoff.

But, is there a chance that USC’s offense and London himself could begin to slow down dramatically?

The Trojans currently boast the Pac-12’s best passing offense, ranking first in both passing yards (1,509) and yards per game (301.8).

That success can’t be overlooked, but there is as much variety to it as the meat options at In-N-Out. Only serving burgers works for In-N-Out. Name a time when you went from the street to the drive-through window in one continuous motion—you can’t. 

By no means should USC go out of their way to fix the lack of play-calling diversity by purposely not targeting London. If a team is daring or dumb enough to leave their best corner on an island with London, then make them pay.

Just look at this touchdown he had against Colorado last Saturday.

But plays like this could eventually spell trouble.

Throwing into triple coverage might work against a middle-of-the-road defense like Colorado, but could this work when the Trojans face Utah and Arizona State University? These teams are the best defenses the Pac-12 has to offer. 

In particular, Utah has done an excellent job of putting teams Number One receiving options in a straitjacket, allowing them to average only 40 yards per game.

In the Utes’ loss to San Diego State, they didn’t let a single Aztec end up with 16 receiving yards on the day. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you: 16 yards. 

London could put up 16 yards if he had to run his routes while balancing an egg on a spoon, but the point remains.

Keeping with our fast-food analogy, USC’s offensive predictability could be mitigated by finding fries to go along with the double-double. But there isn’t a clear answer on who those fries might be.

No Trojan besides Drake London has put up 57 receiving yards in a game. USC’s other wideouts, including Tahj Washington, Gary Bryant Jr. and Kyle Ford, are mere afterthoughts for opposing defensive coordinators.

Perhaps freshman tight end Michael Trigg could draw that much needed double team, but the jury’s still out on him. 

Beyond the X’s and O’s and box scores, there is also a voice the size of a tic tac in the back of my head that’s saying “Is Drake London’s heavy usage putting him at greater risk for an injury?”

This isn’t a dig at London’s grit and physicality, quite the opposite. Those qualities are the hallmark of his effectiveness. But could his strength also be a weakness? Take this jaw dropping grab against Washington State as an example.

His ability to emasculate the corner allowed him to make the catch, but it also led him to not being able to get up and looked frightening for a moment.

He left the game with concussion symptoms right after this, but he was back at it the following week against Oregon State. 

He wouldn’t be the first virtuoso to be physically impaired from their strength. 

On multiple occasions, Louis Armstrong had blood spraying from his lips while performing on stage due to the immense pressure he exerted into the trumpet. It was also reported that he began to form calluses on his lips that he could cut off with a razor blade. 

London’s first-half performance is a euphemism for realizing that even the greatest talents and best performances imaginable can come with dastardly side effects. 

—More from Matt Weiner—
Matt Weiner