By Johnny Curren
Coming off a victory over Arkansas State, and with Idaho on tap this Saturday, the Trojans were back at work on Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field on Tuesday morning, taking part in a full-pads practice session that, according to USC head coach Steve Sarkisian, wasn’t his team’s sharpest overall effort.
“We’re installing some stuff, so the guys are thinking a bit, they’re still a little sore, and it was warm, so it’s probably not our best practice that we’ve had,” Sarkisian said. “I’ve seen us practice better, with better energy, but Tuesdays are somewhat typical that way. They’re going to be tough, grind-it-out type days, but we need to be better on Wednesday, so we need to make sure that we come back this evening in our position meetings, clean some things up and come out with a little better energy.”
Jackson, Mitchell, Davis and Pelon all return
There was plenty of good news on the injury front for the Trojans on Tuesday, especially in regard to three-way star Adoree’ Jackson.
Having gone to the sideline early during the Trojans’ 55-6 victory over the Red Wolves with a strained abdominal muscle, Jackson came out in full pads on Tuesday and, although he was held out of the contact team periods, he did participate in individual drills, one-on-one drills and even in a portion of the 11-on-11 service team periods — all at cornerback.
“He looked good today,” Sarkisian said. “He really wanted to get out and go, and the doctors said it was fine for him to go. We obviously are going to monitor him closely. You know, anytime you can’t finish a ball game, we’re going to treat it very seriously, but I think he’ll be fine for Saturday.”
Also back in action after heading to the sideline against Arkansas State with a bruised hand was wide receiver Steven Mitchell Jr.. He took part in the entire practice session, as did tailback Justin Davis and defensive lineman Claude Pelon, both of whom have been out for an extended period of time.
Davis, sidelined since mid-way through fall camp with a rib injury, jumped right back into the mix, taking a large number of reps with the No. 1 offense, and looking sharp for the most part, particularly during an early 9-on-7 period when he took a handoff and made a nice spin move at the line before darting up the field for a gain of over 10 yards.
Following practice, Sarkisian appeared to be pleased with the junior’s performance, while noting how important it is to get him back in the flow of things as fast as possible.
“I think it’s big for him,” Sarkisian said. “That’s why you saw him in team-run, you saw him doing some 9-on-7 in practice, and then we’ve got to put him in the game. That’s the only way you get over some of that stuff. A lot of times with injuries, as much as it is physical, it’s mental. He’s physically cleared to play, now he’s just got to get over the mental hurdle. But I thought Justin practiced well today. We need another physical practice with him tomorrow to get him ready to go for Saturday.”
Pelon, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery late last month, ran with the No. 2 defense at defensive tackle, and he too, appears poised to contribute on Saturday.
“I thought Claude looked good.” Sarkisian said. “I think he had to work a little of the rust off. You know, he was out a little bit longer. But as practice wore on I thought he was really good. I thought he was active, he looked fresh, which he should be – the other guys played Saturday and he didn’t. He looked fresh, he had a good bounce in his step, so we’ll see how he responds tomorrow and this evening. But all signs are pointing for him to play on Saturday.”
News and notes
– Lamar Dawson (ribs) was extremely limited and Jordan Simmons (knee) did not participate in practice.
– Quinton Powell, who did not play against Arkansas State, participated in the entire practice session Tuesday.
– There was a brief moment of tension late in practice when, after Su’a Cravens fought through an Isaac Whitney block to tackle JuJu Smith-Schuster for a loss on a quick passing play outside, Smith-Schuster became visibly frustrated and shoved Whitney.
When asked about the incident, Sarkisian said:
“It’s Tuesday. Everybody is a little grumpy on Tuesday.”
– Continuing to go with the No. 1 offensive line group on Tuesday was Chad Wheeler at LT, Damien Mama at LG, Max Tuerk at C, Toa Lobendahn at RG and Zach Banner at RT. Following practice Sarkisian acknowledged the fact that those are the starting five at this point, but that others such as Viane Talamaivao and Chuma Edoga will continue to get playing time.
– Freshman Osa Masina, who returned a fumble 46 yards for a touchdown against Arkansas State, took extensive reps with the No. 1 defense on Tuesday at ‘will’ linebacker, alongside ‘mike’ linebacker Cameron Smith.
– With Jackson sidelined during the team 11-on-11 periods, Iman Marshall and Jonathan Lockett took reps with the No. 1 defense opposite Kevon Seymour.
– During an early 1-on-1 period freshman safety Marvell Tell came up with a nice interception on a deep ball from Max Browne to Christian Tober. During the same session, Jackson blanketed Darreus Rogers and broke up a quick pass over the middle.
– During a late service team period Ronald Jones II had a very impressive run where he bounced outside and broke loose for an 80-yard touchdown.
– During a field goal period (all from 38 yards or shorter), Alex Wood went 3 for 4, Matt Boermeester went 2 for 3, and Wyatt Schmidt went 1 for 1.
– Tre Madden ran up the middle for a gain of five yards before Smith and a host of others combine for the stop.
– Cody Kessler swung a pass outside to Dominic Davis, who weaved his way for a gain of close to 15 yards.
– Pelon stopped J. Davis after a short gain.
– Cody Temple sacked Kessler.
– Jones ran up the middle for a gain of around five yards.
– Masina put a big hit on D. Davis that forced him to fumble, with one of the offensive linemen appearing to make the recovery.
– J. Davis made a spin move at the line and picked up over 10 yards.
– Aca’Cedric Ware ran outside for a gain of seven or eight yards before Chris Hawkins made the stop.
– Leon McQuay III stopped Jones after a short gain.
– Isaiah Langley sacked Max Browne.
– Ware broke loose along the sideline for a gain of over 30 yards before Davonte Nunnery made the stop.
– D. Davis ran for a gain of close to 10 yards.
– Kessler hit Smith-Schuster over the middle for a gain of 12 yards.
– Browne connected with De’Quan Hampton outside for a gain of close to 10 yards.
– Browne hit James Toland IV outside for a gain of seven or eight yards.
– Browne hit Tober outside for a short gain before Uchenna Nwosu made the stop.
– Kessler hit Smith-Schuster over the middle for a gain of eight yards.
– Kessler tried to hit Tyler Petite deep down the middle, but Powell was there to break up the pass.
– Whitney made a nice fingertip catch along the sideline for a gain of 20 yards on a pass from Kessler.
– Smith-Schuster made a great diving eight-yard catch with Seymour in tight coverage.
– Kessler hit Smith-Schuster over the middle for close to a 10-yard gain.
– Kessler connected with Petite over the middle for a gain of 12 yards before Hawkins made the stop.
– Cravens stopped Smith-Schuster for a loss after a quick pass outside.
– Browne hit Jalen Greene outside for a gain of 10 yards before Langley made the stop.
– Browne went to Greene again for a gain of close to 10 yards.
– Kessler threw a quick pass outside to D. Davis, but Scott Felix stopped him for a loss.
– Felix applied pressure and Kessler threw the pass away.
– Anthony Sarao sacked Browne.