USC put the finishing touches on its 2021 spring ball with a short practice on Friday, which featured one final physical, full-contact team period and a goal line battle to end things.
After 15 spring practices that featured about as much hitting as allowed under NCAA rules, USC’s injury list had grown to be fairly substantial heading into Friday’s practice.
In addition to those who have missed extended time this spring, offensive lineman Jalen McKenzie and running back Stephen Carr were sidelined for Friday’s practice. Safety Briton Allen, cornerback Jayden Williams and tight end Josh Falo were all back in action.
On Friday morning, head coach Clay Helton addressed a few of the injuries.
Outside linebacker Drake Jackson is going through concussion protocol. Helton said he was involved in a car accident and they are being very cautious with him. Wide receiver Bru McCoy is dealing with an aggravated hamstring issue. Offensive lineman Liam Jimmons has a high ankle injury, as does wide receiver Michael Jackson III.
With it being a shorter practice, much of the competitive portion of practice was split between 7-on-7 and full team work.
Kedon Slovis got the 7-on-7 portion started by hitting Drake London over the middle with a nice pass that he fit through a tight window between Kana’i Mauga and Chris Steele. London again was a factor in much of the practice and that’s been a usual occurrence this spring. Slovis then found wide receiver K.D. Nixon along the sideline, tight end Erik Krommenhoek for a short gain and London again on a deep crossing route. With a pass rush, Slovis might have had difficulty completing the passes to Nixon and London, as he had to hold the ball a bit against good coverage.
Miller Moss then stepped in with the second team and found wide receiver Danny Ryan against coverage from Josh Jackson Jr. Moss hit running back Matt Colombo in the flat but Jayden Williams was right on top of him. Jackson Jr. then forced an incompletion on a deep ball and Moss finished his turn with a short completion to Falo.
Jaxson Dart went with the first team and hit John Jackson III, then a big throw to London and a completion to Lake McRee. Dart tried to hit Ty Shamblin but Isaac Taylor-Stuart made a nice play to knock the ball away.
During the team period, the first-team offensive line featured Courtland Ford, Andrew Vorhees, Brett Neilon, Justin Dedich and Jonah Monheim going left to right. The second group was Casey Collier, Jason Rodriguez, Brett Neilon, Gino Guinones and Ford, Vorhees and Monheim all took reps at right tackle.
Slovis found John Jackson III on a short pass, then caught the defense in a big blitz by quickly hitting Quincy Jountti out of the backfield and letting him run for a big gain. Slovis then tried to find Nixon but Xavion Alford was in coverage to help with the incompletion.
The second team offense with Dart got start with a run behind some nice blocks by Collier and Rodriguez.
Xamarion Gordon had the play of the drive when he read Dart and broke well to knock away a pass intended for Shamblin.
Moss took his turn with the first team and hit London on back-to-back passes, then found Jountti who again turned in some significant yards after the catch.
Helton then flipped things to live tackle and the defense responded well, forcing Dart to scramble for little gain on the first play.
Linebacker Danny Lockhart Jr. recorded a tackle for loss. He has had a very impressive spring.
Dart found McRee with a short pass where McRee had to react quickly to a hard throw. McRee showed a bit of everything this spring and definitely outplayed expectations.
Nixon got his hands on the next pass and was able to show a little wiggle and some run after the catch. Nixon came on strong early in camp but didn’t seem to make a ton of impact at wide receiver after the early going. The coaches clearly like what he brings to the roster, so it will be interesting to see how things go there early this fall. The talent and experience are evident.
Moss with the second team found Shamblin on back-to-back throws, the second resulted in the wide receiver putting a nice move on Gordon for extra yards. But Gordon got it back on the next play, when he fought off a block from Danny Ryan and put a big hit on Colombo along the sideline.
Moss then found tight end Sean Mahoney, but Anthony Beavers Jr. made a sure tackle to prevent any yards after the catch.
Dart had a series with the third team and defensive lineman Jamar Sekona had his way up front. He got in and knocked the ball out of Dart’s hand for a sack fumble on the first play, and finished the drive with what would have been another sack, though he had to give up on the play because of the non-contact rule regarding quarterbacks.
The ball was then placed on the 6-yard line for a final goal line stand competition. With the second-team units on the field, the defense dominated. Linebacker Spencer Gilbert twice slammed through the line on blitzes and forced Colombo to change direction in the backfield. On the first, Beavers Jr. ran him down on the outside for a big tackle for loss. On the second, Micah Croom eventually brought down the runner for no gain or a small loss.
On the final play, Moss looked for Ryan in the endzone, but Calen Bullock had solid coverage and the pass fell incomplete.
Up next, USC will begin summer workouts on June 1. While the injury list grew throughout spring, Helton said at this point he only expects three longterm injuries to impact the fall — quarterback Mo Hasan and safety Max Williams both suffered ACL injuries, while defensive tackle Brandon Pili will be out with an achilles injury.