By Johnny Curren
With some key faces missing on Thursday, including senior quarterback Cody Kessler, there was a slightly unfamiliar feel to fall camp practice No. 14 at USC. Kessler, linebacker Anthony Sarao and tight end Taylor McNamara all were at orientation for grad-school, while the face of the defense, linebacker Su’a Cravens, sat out the two-and-a-half hour session with back spasms.
In Kessler’s absence, redshirt-sophomore Max Browne received the chance to guide the No. 1 offense, and he performed well in the role, starting the day off on a perfect note during the first 11-on-11 period by connecting on a long pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster, and then to Steven Mitchell for a 25-yard touchdown.
“It was a great opportunity for Max Browne to step in and be the starting quarterback for the day,” said USC head coach Steve Sarkisian. “I never even addressed the team with it. I never told the team that it was going to happen. We just did it, and I thought Max played great. I thought the offense performed.”
Sarkisian also noted that Kessler likely needed a day off to rest his arm anyway, so the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. More than anything, however, he said that he was glad that Browne now has something to hold onto should he need to step in for the Trojans at any point this season.
“We don’t know if it’s Week 1, Week 7 or Week 13 that his number might be called, and he’s going to need to step in,” Sarkisian said. “He can lean on this practice knowing that he can operate this offense at a high level.”
Jackson really can do it all
It seems like there is nothing that Adoree’ Jackson can’t do on the football field, and he made that point clear on Thursday. Having already starred on defense, offense and as a return man through the early goings of camp, the sophomore out of Gardena (Calif.) Serra surprised everyone in attendance when he jumped in to attempt a 25-yard field attempt during a placekicking period, and then he promptly made it.
Sarkisian said that he felt compelled to bring in Jackson, whom he had never seen kick before, due to the performance of placekickers Alex Wood and Matt Boermeester, who each went 2 for 4 on their attempts on Thursday.
“Well, the kickers weren’t making it, so I put the guy in that I thought could make it,” Sarkisian said. “He made it.”
On offense, Jackson put on a show for the second-consecutive day, recording two long touchdown receptions, while also breaking loose for a 40-yard touchdown run.
“He did it again today,” Sarkisian said. “I don’t know how many touchdowns he scored. He’s tough in the open field.”
Sarkisian did express concern, however, with the way that the defense has performed during each of the last two workouts without Jackson at cornerback.
“There’s going to be times when Adoree’ isn’t out on the field defensively because of his workload offensively in a specific game, and we’re still going to have to play defense,” Sarkisian said. “We’re obviously better when he’s out there on both sides of the ball. It’s just going to be a real challenge for us as a staff to manage him properly, so that we get the best out of him, and so he can get the best out of himself.”
– In addition to Cravens, others who sat out practice on Thursday due to injury were Justin Davis (rib contusion), Lamar Dawson (ribs), Claude Pelon (knee) and Jordan Simmons (knee swelling).
– Sarkisian said that Pelon had his knee scoped on Wednesday and that he will likely return in 1-3 weeks.
– Defensive lineman Rasheem Green (knee) remained limited. Cornerback Kevon Seymour (knee) appeared to participate in the entire practice session.
– Mitchell went to the sideline after his early touchdown grab with a rolled ankle and did not return, although Sarkisian said that he could have continued to practice if he had to.
– Offensive lineman Chad Wheeler was hit in the head with a medicine ball and sat out almost the entire practice session.
– Tight end Connor Spears went to the sideline early and stayed there with ice on his right shoulder for the remainder of practice.
News and notes
– The USC Trojan Marching Band made an appearance at practice and briefly played, and they were accompanied by USC’s mascot, Traveler.
– The Trojans practiced in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets.
– In the absence of Sarao and Dawson, Olajuwon Tucker and Cameron Smith ran with the No. 1 defense at the two inside linebacker spots throughout most of practice. Uchenna Nwosu took reps with the first group at SAM linebacker in place of Cravens.
– With Spears on the sideline for a good portion of practice, and McNamara absent, freshman Tyler Petite took the majority of reps with the No. 1 offense at tight end.
– The starting offensive line for the entirety of the day consisted of Toa Lobendahn at LT, Damien Mama at LG, Max Tuerk at C, Chris Brown at RG and Zach Banner at RT. Viane Talamaivao continued to line up with the No. 2 offense at RG.
– Greg Townsend Jr. continued to line up in Pelon’s place with the No. 1 defense at defensive end.
– In addition to Browne, freshman quarterback Sam Darnold also had a busy day leading the No. 2 offense. Conner Sullivan also took some reps with some of the reserve units.
– There was a one-on-one period that featured some spirited battles, with Smith-Schuster coming up with the arguable play of the day – a beautiful one-handed 20-yard touchdown grab in the corner of the end zone with Seymour in coverage.
– Running back Tre Madden did not participate in any 11-on-11 periods and appeared to get the bulk of the day off.
– Among those in attendance were scouts from the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks.
– Browne hit Jackson over the middle for a seven or eight-yard gain before Tucker made the stop.
– Browne went outside to Soma Vainuku, who then broke a Tucker tackle and picked up eight or nine yards.
– Browne connected outside with Smith-Schuster for 10 yards.
– Browne hit Mitchell in the corner of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown.
– Aca’cedric Ware ran outside for around seven yards.
– Darnold’s pass is deflected at the line and Michael Hutchings almost comes up with the pick.
– John Houston Jr. sacked Darnold.
– Hutchings stops Dominic Davis after a short gain.
– Jeff Miller sacked Darnold.
– Sullivan connected with Robby Kolanz in the corner of the end zone for a 20-yard TD.
– Jackson ran for a 40-yard TD run.
– Browne threw to D. Davis, who then made a really nice cutback near the sideline and outraced everybody for a 40-yard touchdown.
– Ronald Jones II ran outside, but John Plattenburg and a host of others stopped him after a short gain.
– Ware broke off a 30-yard run outside.
– Darnold connected with Cyrus Hobbi over Marvell Tell for a 40-yard TD over the middle.
– Browne hit Petite outside for a 12-yard gain.
– D. Davis took the handoff and weaved his way through the middle of the field for a gain of around 15 yards.
– Browne hit Jackson for a gain of five yards before Chris Hawkins put a big pop on him.
– Browne connected with Jackson deep along the sideline over Jonathan Lockett for a 65-yard-plus touchdown.
– Darnold tried to hit Caleb Wilson in the seam, but Houston was there to deflect the pass.
– Browne hit Smith-Schuster over the middle for a gain of close to 20 yards with Iman Marshall in coverage.
– Browne went deep to Isaac Whitney along the sideline, but Seymour broke up the play.
– Darnold connected outside to Deontay Burnett for a gain of around 10 yards.
– Darnold hit Jalen Greene outside for a gain of close to 30 yards.
– Browne hit Jackson with a quick pass outside, he made a couple cuts and was gone for a 90-yard TD.
– Smith-Schuster made a beautiful 40-yard diving TD catch in the end zone with Marshall in coverage.
– Darnold hit Wilson over the middle for 25 yards.
– Townsend and a host of others stopped Vainuku for no gain.
– Tucker sacked Browne.
– Jabari Ruffin sacked Darnold.
– Browne hit Smith-Schuster over the middle for a gain of close to 15 yards.
– Browne hit D. Davis outside for a one-yard TD.
– Browne connected with Greene outside for a three-yard TD.