By Johnny Curren
After a day off, the Trojans were back on Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field on Friday morning. Wearing full-pads for the second consecutive workout, the team spent a bulk of the session working on red zone and short-yardage situations.
“I thought our guys practiced really well,” USC head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “All in all it’s starting to come together. We got our base install in, now we’re starting to work ourselves into the special situations – red zone, third-down and short yardage.”
Another physical affair, the practice was highlighted by an early gauntlet tackling drill that featured two nice plays by Delvon Simmons where he was able to get by Damien Mama to level the running back, Claude Pelon blowing by Zach Banner to stop Conner Sullivan, a big-time hit by Iman Marshall on Christian Tober after the freshman beat Isaac Whitney, and a nifty run by Ronald Jones II where he weaved his way through traffic to make it through untouched.
In the session-ending final five-play challenge, it was the offense that came out on top 3-1, with quarterback Cody Kessler clinching the victory with a short throw outside to Soma Vainuku, who was met by Lamar Dawson after four or five yards, but was able keep his feet and rumble downfield for a first-down gain.
The team will come back and take part in a closed practice session on Friday night.
Lobendahn spends day at center
Toa Lobendahn had taken extensive snaps at both left tackle and right guard through the first five days of camp, and on Friday, he lined up at center for the first time this month, spending almost the entire day at the position with the No. 2 offense.
Easily the most versatile offensive lineman on the roster, Lobendahn drew plenty of praise from USC offensive line coach Bob Connely following practice for what he brings to the unit.
“He’s a stud,” Connelly said. “He’s a gifted, gifted, gifted football player, and he has the ability to play any of the five positions, which is great for him and great for us. He’s going to allow me to keep the best five guys on the field. He’s going to allow us to fill in pieces of the puzzle, and make sure that the right combination is there. I’m really excited. As Coach Ivan [Lewis] says, he’s the toughest, hardest worker on the football team coming out of summer workouts, which is music to my ears, and that’s how he is out here on the football field. He comes to work every day, he’s got a great attitude, and he’s got a bright future.”
With the versatility of Lobendahn, coupled with the increased depth of the offensive line group, in general, Sarkisian brought up the possibility of potentially rotating more players in and out of the lineup there this fall.
“We are fortunate that we’ve got some quality offensive linemen depth, that maybe we haven’t had around here for awhile,” Sarkisian said. “And so, for us, what’s going to be cool is that we’re going to be able to sub guys. If we really want to be able to run the amount of plays we want to run, we’re not going to have to take a step back to sub in a different left guard or a different left tackle or a different right tackle. We’ve got some quality people that can go in and be fresh, and play really good football for us.”
Sarkisian statement on Dixon
After being ordered by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Wednesday to stay its expulsion of Bryce Dixon, the university announced on Thursday that Dixon can re-enroll in the school, but that he would not be re-instated as a student athlete – meaning he cannot re-join the football team.
Asked to comment on the decision on Friday, Sarkisian made the following statement:
“We support the university’s decision. As I said yesterday, we want what’s in the best interest of the student athlete as well. I really don’t have anything further to comment on that.”
Dixon was expelled from school earlier this summer following a USC investigation of alleged sexual assault.
In an effort to monitor wear and tear, and specifically, to help prevent soft tissue injuries, 60 players at USC are now wearing Catapult GPS units during practice. Having first tried out the device during Holiday Bowl practices last December, the monitoring units fit underneath a players’ shoulder pads, with the device providing information to coaches and staff on how far a player runs during each practice, how fast he’s going at different times, collisions and more.
“It’s really useful,” Sarkisian said. “You know, as you start getting this data, you really see the specific players of what their workload is. What their intensity is. You know, how many miles a day they’re actually running in practice, and some guys are up here, and some guys are down here, and they might be at the same positions, so it’s my job to balance that out. To make sure that we’re not over-working a JuJu, and that we’re giving him enough rest, and certain days I might give him the day off because he had a really heavy workload the last couple of days.”
– Justin Davis (hamstring), Noah Jefferson (elbow), Davonte Nunnery (achilles’), Quinton Powell (concussion) and Viane Talamaivao (hamstring) did not participate in practice.
– Safety John Plattenburg (hip) participated in individual drills early, but did not participate in any team drills. Defensive lineman Rasheem Green also remained limited.
News and notes
– Sarkisian said that he had nothing new to report on tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, who was ruled academically ineligible prior to last season, and has not participated in fall camp.
– With Lobendahn lining up at center with the No. 2 group for most of the day, Khaliel Rodgers spent a bulk of the practice session with the No. 1 offense at right guard.
– Freshman Jacob Daniel took some brief snaps with the No. 1 defense at nose tackle.
– Tre Madden continued to carry a lighter load on Friday, with freshmen Dominic Davis, Jones, and Aca’Cedric Ware getting most of the work.
– In the battle for the placekicker position, Matt Boermeester connected on 3 of 4 of his attempts, while Alex Wood connected on 2 of 3.
– There were a number of former Trojans players in attendance on Friday including a slimmed-down Jeff Byers, Oscar Lua, Kyle Matthews and Mike Williams.
– Scouts were on hand from the Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins.
– Kessler connected outside with Darreus Rogers for 15 yards before Su’a Cravens made the stop.
– Kessler hit Ware, and he darted off for a 10-yard gain before Leon McQuay III put a solid hit on him.
– Kessler tried to hit Robby Kolanz about 30-yards downfield along the sideline, but Jonathan Lockett broke up the pass.
– Jones ran up inside, but Osa Masina popped him hard to limit the play to a short gain.
– Max Browne threw outside to Kolanz, but Adoree’ Jackson deflected the pass.
– John Houston Jr. stopped Dominic Davis for no gain.
– Browne connected with De’Quan Hampton along the sideline for close to 10 yards.
– Deontay Burnett made an impressive diving catch for an eight-yard gain on a pass over the middle by Ricky Town.
– Sam Darnold scrambled for a gain of six or seven yards.
– Darnold hit George Katrib outside for a 12-yard gain.
– Kessler connected with JuJu Smith-Schuster deep down the middle over Kevon Seymour.
– Kessler hit Hampton outside for a gain of around 10 yards.
– Kessler swung a quick pass outside to Christian Tober and he darted off to a 30-yard-plus touchdown.
– Ware broke a 20-yard-plus run outside before being pushed out-of-bounds.
– Masina got in the backfield in a hurry and tackled Ware for a loss.
– Browne connected Jalen Greene outside for a gain of close to 10 yards before Houston made the stop.
– Cameron Smith and a host of others stopped Jones for no gain.
– Browne found a wide-open Caleb Wilson down the middle for a 20-yard touchdown.
– Browne connected with Tyler Petite in the corner of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown.
– Rogers made a diving 5-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone on a pass by Kessler with Seymour in coverage.
– Town hit Dominic Davis with a short pass over the middle, and the freshmen shows off his speed and cutting ability, taking it all the way for a 20-yard touchdown.
– Town tried to hit Burnett at the pylon, but Matt Lopes stepped in front and picked it off.
– Town connected with Daniel Imatorbhebhe in the corner of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown.
– Kessler hit Steven Mitchell Jr. over the middle for a gain of close to 15 yards before Ykili Ross made the stop.
– Kessler hit Vainuku down the sideline with Porter Gustin in coverage for a 10-yard touchdown.
– Kessler swung a quick pass outside, and he ran off for a 10-yard touchdown, thanks to a crushing block by Chad Wheeler on Lockett.
– Browne hit Hampton for a 10-yard touchdown with Chris Hawkins in coverage.
– Jones ran between Mama and Lobendahn for a 20-yard-plus gain.
– Cravens stopped Ware for a loss.
– Kessler hit Connor Spear in the corner of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown.
– Cody Temple stopped Dominic Davis for no gain.
– Greg Townsend Jr. sacked Town.
– Mitchell had a diving 30-yard TD grab on a pass from Kessler.
– Hawkins came in hard and dropped Jones for a loss.
– Darnold hit Katrib in the corner of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown.
– On the first play of the final five-play challenge, Kessler hit Dominic Davis and he ran down the sideline for a 15-yard gain.
– Ware was stopped after a short gain by Delvon Simmons and Co.
– Kessler connected with Ware for a gain of five or six yards.
– Kessler hit Vainuku for a nice gain outside.