By Johnny Curren
With a big scrimmage in full pads coming up on Friday, the Trojans took part in a lighter-than-usual practice in shorts and helmets on Thursday that was just under two hours long.
That doesn’t mean that there still weren’t plenty of standout plays being made on Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field, however, particularly by the two quarterbacks fighting for the starting job, Max Browne and Sam Darnold. Both passers looked sharp on Thursday, completing an extremely high percentage of their passes.
With Clay Helton set to announce a winner between the two on Sunday, the USC head coach admitted that he anxiously awaits his final chance to see them in action in a game-like setting.
“I’ve got one more opportunity to watch the kids tomorrow,” said Helton, who noted that the plan is to run 75 to 80 plays in the scrimmage. “I know both attributes of each kid right now, and I look forward in that type of atmosphere, when they know it’s their last time out there, how they perform. And you know, that’s one of those things, you get to say, ‘OK, this is the body of work they’ve put together through a spring, through 18 practices of fall camp, let’s see them in that last situation and see how they perform.’ So, it is important.”
Browne, who threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster to cap off a nice scoring drive in an overtime period, certainly wasn’t downplaying the significance of the upcoming scrimmage either.
“It’ll be another practice, but I’m not naive to the fact that it’s a big scrimmage,” Browne said “It’ll probably be evaluated even more critically, so I think it is a big day, not only for me or Sam, but for everyone involved. I’m sure most of the depth chart will be decided, redshirts will be decided…so it’s a huge day for everyone on the team.”
News and notes
– Following practice Helton announced that former walk-ons Matt Lopes, Reuben Peters and James Toland have all been put on scholarship.
“All three men represent what we want the Trojan Family to be, and they’ve done a tremendous job,” Helton said. “So to them and their families I’d like to congratulate them, and thank them for their service to our team.”
– Among the players who did not participate in practice were Jamel Cook (foot), Rasheem Green (knee contusion), Isaiah Langley (concussion), Damien Mama (ankle), John Plattenburg (concussion), Kevin Scott (hamstring), Marvell Tell (hamstring) and Chad Wheeler (plantar fasciitis).
– Helton said that he does not expect Green’s injury to keep him out more than a couple days.
– Mama’s injury also does not appear to be serious, with Helton noting that he was held out for precautionary reasons.
– Ykili Ross and Cole Smith returned to action after missing the last two workouts due to illness.
– Offensive lineman Jordan Simmons, who sat out practice on Wednesday due to a sore knee, returned and ran with the No. 2 offense at right guard.
– Jabari Ruffin, who had had an MRI done on his knee earlier in the week, was also back and appeared to take part in the entire practice.
– After taking part in individual drills the last two days, defensive lineman Noah Jefferson took a good number of reps during the 11-on-11 periods on Thursday – with the No. 1 defense at times at defensive tackle.
– Chuma Edoga continued to run with the No. 1 offense at left tackle, with Zach Banner at right tackle.
– Freshman wide receiver Michael Pittman had another strong practice on Thursday, making a number of catches all over the field – including a 35-yard touchdown grab on a pass from Darnold in an 11-on-11 period. Pittman was pointed out by Helton earlier in the week as one of the freshmen who has stood out most to him as of late.
– Helton praised the performance of freshman quarterback Matt Fink on Thursday, saying it was likely his best day.
– During a field goal period Matt Boermeester connected on 6-of-8 attempts with a long of 40 yards. Reid Budrovich was 1-of-2 with a long of 21 yards.
– Former Trojans players Sam Baker and Shaun Cody were in attendance.
– Also on hand were NFL scouts from the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
– Browne tried to hit Taylor McNamara over the middle, but Osa Masina broke up the pass.
– Browne hit Smith-Schuster for a gain of 7 or 8 yards.
– Darnold hit Pittman over the middle for a gain of 10 yards.
– Darnold hit Josh Imatorbhebhe outside for a gain of around 15 yards.
– Darnold hit Deontay Burnett over the middle for a gain of 20 yards.
– Browne connected with Pittman over the middle for a gain of 11 or 12 yards.
– Browne hit Smith-Schuster over the middle for 10 yards.
– Browne went right back to Smith-Schuster outside for a gain of 8 or 9 yards.
– Darnold hit Pittman over the middle for a gain of 7 or 8 yards.
– Darnold hit De’Quan Hampton outside for a gain of close to 10 yards.
– Darnold hit Jalen Greene over the middle for a gain of around 20 yards.
– Darnold hit Greene outside for a gain of 13 or 14 yards.
– Darnold hit Ronald Jones II outside for a gain of 5 yards.
– An errant from Toa Lobendahn got by Darnold, he recovered the ball but the play was whistled dead.
– Darnold hit Steven Mitchell outside for a gain of 10 yards.
– Jones ran outside for a gain of 5 or 6 yards.
– Darnold hit Pittman down the middle for a 35-yard TD with Jack Jones and Deion Hart in coverage.
– Don Hill sacked Browne.
– Dominic Davis ran outside for a gain of 4 or 5 yards.
– Browne hit Darreus Rogers outside for a 12-yard gain.
– Josh Fatu sacked Browne.
– Toland ran outside for a gain of 5 yards.
– Browne hit Mitchell over the middle for a gain of around 10 yards.
– Browne hit Smith-Schuster outside for a 10-yard TD.
– Porter Gustin put pressure on Darnold – he threw it away.
– Darnold hit Pittman over the middle for a gain 11 or 12 yards.
– Darnold tried to hit Pittman in the end zone, but Leon McQuay broke up the pass.