By Johnny Curren
It was Day 10 of fall camp for the Trojans on Saturday, and with Clay Helton’s squad dressed in full pads there was plenty of physical 11-on-11 work, including during an early team-run period in which Justin Davis, Dominic Davis and Aca’Cedric Ware all broke loose for long gains.
Aside from that portion of practice, however, the day was largely won by the defense.
Defensive Coordinator Clancy Pendergast’s group was particularly dominant during a late goal line period, which ended on a huge play by safety Leon McQuay III, who knifed into the offensive backfield and dropped Justin Davis for a loss.
Following practice Helton had high praise for the Trojans defense.
“By far, I thought it was their best day,” Helton said. “It’s really neat to see assignment sound football. That’s what I told the defense today. They were extremely consistent, but they were assignment sound. It was 11 men playing together, and when they do that, then talent takes over.”
Helton also said that he believes that the defense is further along than he thought they would be at this point in camp, and he gave much of the credit to Pendergast.
“He believes in playing fast, trying to make things simple for our kids, and I really see that it’s helped several of our players, especially veterans, play a lot faster and get on the field,” Helton said. “Look at a Leon McQuay who is now out there making plays. He was kind of lost for a couple years. Now he’s back out there really doing a nice job.”
Another strong day for Boermeester
Redshirt-junior placekicker Matt Boermeester has come on in practice as of late, stringing together a number of solid workouts – including on Saturday when he was 10-for-10 during a field goal period, with a long of 41 yards.
Having played sporadically last season after redshirting the 2014 campaign, Boermeester is now entrenched in a position battle with blueshirt freshman Michael Brown. If Boermeester keeps performing the way he has lately, however, it’s hard to imagine him not running away with the job.
“Right now I think that Matt is doing a really good job in field goals,” Helton said. “Michael has got a little bit of a quad injury, which is holding him back. It’s given Matt a lot of time for some extra reps, and he seems a lot more accurate, a lot more consistent than he was in the spring. Not to say he was bad in the spring, but he’s a lot more consistent in this camp. I think being with Coach [John Baxter] through spring and now through training camp is really paying off.”
News and notes
– Helton said that USC’s entire signing class has officially been academically cleared. The final grades for the current players will be posted this coming Wednesday.
– Among those who did not participate in practice were Michael Brown (quad), Jamel Cook (foot), Noah Jefferson (back), John Plattenburg (concussion), Kevin Scott, Marvell Tell (hamstring) and Chad Wheeler (plantar Fasciitis).
– Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (toe/ankle) was limited, taking part in warm-ups and individual drills only. Cornerback Keyshawn Young was also limited.
– Cornerback Iman Marshall took part in the entire practice after missing Friday’s workout due to a death in the family.
– After going to the sideline with a quad injury on Friday, cornerback Jack Jones was full-go on Saturday. Freshmen offensive linemen Frank Martin and E.J. Price were also back after missing Friday’s session due to illness.
– Inside linebacker Quinton Powell was pulled mid-way through practice due to a neck sprain.
– With Wheeler sidelined, Zach Banner, once again, flipped over to left tackle with the No. 1 offense, with Chuma Edoga lining up at right tackle.
– Damien Mama ran with the No. 1 offense at left guard for the entirety of practice. Chris Brown went with the No. 2 offense at left guard.
– There was a lot of rotating at the two inside linebacker positions. Cameron Smith spent at least half the day with the No. 1 defense at MIKE linebacker, mostly alongside WILL linebacker Osa Masina. The other primary MIKE linebacker with the ones, Michael Hutchings, also took some reps at the WILL spot alongside Smith.
– Khaliel Rodgers had a very productive day, taking extensive reps with the No. 1 defense at nose tackle, particularly late in practice when Helton and Co. appeared to give Stevie Tu’ikolovatu a long break.
– Chris Hawkins and McQuay were the primary safeties with the No. 1 group. Ykili Ross came in on nickel situations, with McQuay covering the slot.
– Helton commented on the position battle between punters Chris Tilbey and Reid Budrovich:
“Chris has got a huge leg,” Helton said. “We’re really hoping for some constant consistency from him. And Reid just keeps plugging along. He’s having consistent day after consistent day, and kind of placing the ball where it needs to be. Not a lot of kill shots, but his net and what he’s doing right now is pretty good. It’s a great competition right now.”
– The entire team had to run a wind sprint the length of both Brian Kennedy and Howard Jones Fields following practice because a freshman player’s cell phone went off during a team meeting.
“You knew it was going to happen sometime in camp,” Helton said. “I’ve been waiting for it. They’ve been so damn good, and today finally a rookie messed up, so it was good to teach a valuable lesson.”
– Among those in attendance were Class of 2020 quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), who holds an offer from USC, as well as Athletic Director Lynn Swann and former Trojans players Shaun Cody, Sam Cunningham, Willie McGinest and Larry Parker.
– Justin Davis made a nice cut outside at the line and broke off a long run.
– Rasheem Green stopped J. Davis for no gain.
– Dominic Davis ran right for a big 40-yard-plus TD.
– Matt Lopes and others stopped Ware for a loss.
– Ware ran up inside for a gain of over 20 yards.
– Max Browne hit Deontay Burnett over the middle for close to 10 yards.
– Browne hit Taylor McNamara over the middle for 8 or 9 yards.
– Browne hit Tyler Vaughns for a gain of 20 yards.
– Sam Darnold scrambled and ran for 4 or 5 yards.
– Darnold hit Trevon Sidney outside for a gain of 10 yards.
– Darnold tried to hit De’Quan Hampton over the middle, but Adoree’ Jackson broke it up.
– John Houston Jr. sacked Browne.
– Browne hit Burnett over the middle for 9 yards.
– McQuay stopped J. Davis for no gain.
– Browne hit Hampton outside for a 5-yard TD.
– Lopes tackled Jones for a loss.
– Darnold hit Cary Angeline over the middle for a gain of around 20 yards.
– Ronald Jones II ran for a 6-yard TD up the middle.
– Porter Gustin dropped J. Davis for a loss.
– Darnold hit Isaac Whitney outside for a 10-yard gain.
– Olajuwon Tucker stopped D. David for no gain.
– Darnold hit Whitney in the end zone for a 10-yard TD.
– Uchenna Nwosu stopped J. Davis for no gain.
– Darnold tried to pass outside, but Nwosu batted the ball away.
– Browne tried to hit Sidney, but Jonathan Lockett broke up the pass.
– Rasheem Greene sacked Browne.
– Cameron Smith leveled Jones after a short gain.
– Browne hit Pittman over the middle for 11 or 12 yards.
* GOAL LINE PERIOD *
– Hutchings and others stopped J. Davis for no gain.
– Browne’s pass fell incomplete
– J. Davis with a two-yard TD.
– McQuay stopped J. Davis for a loss.