By Johnny Curren
Coming off an emotional bounce-back victory over Arizona State, the Trojans got back out on Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field in the midst of a bye-week on Tuesday, taking part in a full-pads practice that was marked by physical play, as well as extended reps for the younger players on the team, resembling a typical fall camp session at times.
“I thought our guys were great today,” said USC head coach Steve Sarkisian following the two-hour session. “I thought their energy was really good. They practiced competitively. Our young guys got a lot of work, which is what we’re going to do for the next two days before we really start getting into game-plan mode on Saturday for Washington. So, it’s a good week to get ready, just to get our young players developing, but also focusing on academics and doing all of those little things that are important for student athletes.”
There were a number of freshmen who made the most of the increased opportunity, including defensive backs Ykili Ross and Isaiah Langley – both of whom came up with interceptions – defensive lineman Rasheem Green, tight end Caleb Wilson, wide receiver Deontay Burnett, and perhaps most impressive of all was quarterback Sam Darnold, who threw two touchdown passes and obviously caught the eye of his head coach.
“I thought Sam was good today,” Sarkisian said. “For all of those young guys. We always tend to focus on the true freshmen that are playing, and sometimes we lose sight of the development of our younger players that are actually redshirting, that are developing, and Sam is one of those guys and these days are huge for him.”
– Antwaun Woods, who did not play against Arizona State due to a shoulder injury, participated in the entire practice session, running with the No. 1 offense at nose tackle.
– Cornerback Kevon Seymour (knee) participated in some early individual drills, but did not participate in the remainder of practice.
– Wide receiver Darreus Rogers did not participate in practice due to a hamstring injury suffered against ASU.
News and notes
– Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was added to the Biletnikoff Award watchlist on Tuesday, was not in attendance at practice due to personal reasons.
“We hope to have him back tomorrow,” Sarkisian said. “I don’t think it’s serious, but as we move forward we’ll keep you guys up to date.”
– With Woods back in the fold, the No. 1 defensive line group consisted of Greg Townsend Jr. at DE, Woods at N and Delvon Simmons at DT. The No. 2 group was comprised of Green at DE, Kenny Bigelow at N and Claude Pelon at DT.
– Lamar Dawson spent the entire practice with the No. 1 defense at ‘mike’ linebacker alongside Anthony Sarao. He had a very solid day, opening up the first 11-on-11 period with a nice tackle on Justin Davis, and recording a sack a little later.
– Tailbacks Tre Madden and Justin Davis both had light days, with Ronald Jones II and Aca’Cedric Ware taking the bulk of the carries.
– One of the wildest plays of the year on Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field occurred late in practice when Deontay Burnett made a leaping one-handed catch deep downfield, before Matt Lopes stripped the ball, recovered the fumble and made a nice return.
– In addition to Ross and Langley, sophomore safety John Plattenburg also came up with an interception, picking off a deep Cody Kessler pass down the middle.
– Placekicker Alex Wood connected on a field goal from 45 to 48 yards out during a team period mid-way through practice.
– Dawson stopped J. Davis up the middle after a short gain.
– Kessler hit Christian Tober outside for a gain of close to 20 yards.
– Kessler hit Jalen Greene outside for a gain of 10 yards.
– Uchenna Nwosu got in the backfield in a hurry and tackled Ware for a loss.
– Ware ran outside for a gain of close to 10 yards.
– Dominic Davis ran up the middle for a gain of 12 or 13 yards before Ross made the stop.
– Darnold connected with Robby Kolanz along the sideline for a gain of eight or nine yards.
– Darnold hit George Katrib over the middle for a gain of 10 yards.
– D. Simmons stopped J. Davis for no gain.
– Kessler hit Greene outside for a short gain before Plattenburg came up and made a nice stop.
– Dawson came in and sacked Kessler.
– Green sacked Max Browne.
– Browne hit De’Quan Hampton over the middle for a gain of 10 yards before Michael Hutchings made the stop.
– Browne Found Isaac Whitney outside for a five-yard touchdown.
– Jones ran up the middle for a gain of nine or 10 yards.
– Jones ran for a short gain before Iman Marshall and others made the stop.
– Ware ran for a two-yard touchdown.
– Kessler hit Whitney over the middle for a gain of 12 yards.
– Kessler tried to hit Greene outside, bit Langley was there to make the interception.
– Browne connected with Tyler Petite over the middle for a gain of 11 or 12 yards.
– Wilson made a nice leaping grab over John Houston Jr. on a pass from Browne.
– Browne tried to hit Kolanz outside, but Langley broke up the pass.
– Darnold connected with Kolanz outside for close to 10 yards.
– Darnold hit Katrib over the middle for a 30-yard gain.
– Darnold hit Jackson Boyer in the corner of the end zone for a 15-yard TD.
– Darnold connected with Yoofi Quansah over the middle for a gain of close to 40 yards.
– Darnold ran for a gain of six or seven yards.
– Darnold hit Burnett over the middle for a gain of 15 yards.
– Wilson made a nice diving five-yard touchdown catch on a pass from Darnold.
– Kenny Bigelow sacked Browne.
– Jabari Ruffin sacked Browne.
– Connor Spears couldn’t hold on to Browne’s pass and Ross came up with the pick.
– Kessler connected with Steven Mitchell Jr. over the middle, who then bounced outside and turned the play into a 35-yard gain before Plattenburg made the stop.
– Kessler threw deep over the middle, but Plattenburg made the interception.
– Kessler tried to hit Greene over the middle but Nwosu leveled him.
– Browne tried to connect with Burnett over the middle but Lopes broke up the pass.
– Osa Masina sacked Browne.
– Browne connected with Burnett over the middle for 12 yards.