By Johnny Curren
The Trojans were back on Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field on Tuesday, and with Saturday’s spring game finale fast approaching, USC head coach Clay Helton and Co. spent much of the two-hour, shorts-shoulder pads-and-helmets session focusing on some specific situations that his team might encounter throughout the course of a typical season.
“Important for us going over some of the last special situations training at the end of games, for Hail Mary responsibilities, being able to set up field goals at the end of games, as well as working on a little bit of tempo there one last time and some third-down situations,” Helton said. “It’s an important week for us to finalize these last situations and finish off a great spring Saturday at the Coliseum.”
Those situational periods were highlighted by a Marvell Tell interception in the end zone during the ‘Hail Mary’ period, as well as Sam Darnold’s practice-ending pass to Velus Jones in the end zone in a two-point conversion scenario.
With the Trojans’ currently low in numbers due to injury, specifically along the offensive line where Toa Lobendahn (knee), Viane Talamaivao (bicep), Andrew Vorhees (back) and Nathan Smith (knee) are all sidelined, Helton noted that rather than a simulated game, Saturday’s scrimmage in the Coliseum will also feature plenty of specific situations and resemble more of traditional practice – similar to last spring.
“To be able to play a real live game right now, we’re just too limited,” Helton said. “We’re actually rolling three guards and three tackles right now offensively. So, injury-wise we’re just not able to put two teams together right now.”
Helton did add, however, that there will still be live hitting and tackling.
News and notes
– Others sidelined on Tuesday included Jackson Boyer (hamstring), Isaiah Langley (hamstring), Tyler Petite (hamstring) and Keyshawn “Pie” Young (groin).
– Deontay Burnett (head) and Daniel Imatorbhebhe (shoulder) were limited. Both wore yellow no-contact jersies.
– Others such as Ronald Jones II and Porter Gustin took part in the early portion of practice, but appeared to get most of the day off. Chuma Edoga, who is still sporting what looks like a cast on his right hand due to wrist and finger injuries, also had a lighter than usual day.
– The No. 1 offense to begin practice featured Darnold at QB, Jones II at RB, Tyler Vaughns at WR, V. Jones at WR, Jalen Greene at WR, Cary Angeline at TE, Clayton Johnston at LT, Roy Hemsley at LG, Nico Falah at C, Jordan Austin at RG and Chris Brown at RT.
– Edoga also saw time at both tackle spots with the No. 1 offense.
– Nico Falah, who has been battling a back injury, appeared to make it through virtually the entire practice.
– The No. 1 defense started out in a nickel alignment that we’ve seen lately that actually features John Houston Jr. at OLB, Uchenna Nwosu at OLB, Cameron Smith at MIKE ILB, Malik Dorton at DT, Josh Fatu at N, Rasheem Green at DT, Iman Marshall at CB, Jack Jones at CB, Marvell Tell at S, Chris Hawkins at S and Ajene Harris at N.
– Marlon Tuipulotu also saw a lot of time with the No. 1 defense at nose, splitting the reps there with Fatu.
– Olajuwon Tucker, who has seen time at both inside and outside linebacker this spring, lined up exclusively at the SAM outside linebacker spot with the No. 2 defense.
– Jones II kicked off practice with a fantastic run off Austin and Brown where he broke free for a long touchdown in the opening 11-on-11 period.
– Green was extremely active from his defensive tackle right from the get-go, dropping Aca’Cedric Ware for a loss and Vavae Malepeai for no gain early in that same period.
– Pittman made a beautiful leaping grab along the sideline on a pass from Matt Fink during a 7-on-7 period.
– Burnett, Harris, J. Jones and V. Jones were back returning punts during a special teams period.
– Former Trojans players in attendance included John Mazur, Willie McGinest, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Soma Vainuku and USC athletic director Lynn Swann. Helton’s father, Kim, was also on hand.
– Class of 2019 offensive lineman Jonah Tauanu’u (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne) was in attendance as well.
– Jones II ran right for a long touchdown.
– Jones II ran for a short gain outside before Houston made the stop.
– Darnold connected with Angeline for a big gain along the sideline.
– Green dropped Ware for a loss.
– Houston put a big hit on Ware, stopping him after a short gain.
– James Toland IV made a nice juke at the line, breaking free for a gain of around 15 yards outside.
– Chistian Rector tackled Toland for a loss.
– Green stopped malepeai for no gain.
– Darnold hit Angeline outside for a gain of around 10 yards.
– Green stopped Ware after a gain of 5 yards.
– Green stopped Malepeai after a short gain.
– Grant Moore stopped Jack Sears after a short run outside.
– Liam Jimmons stopped Dominic Davis for a loss.
– Sears hit Josh Imatorbhebhe for a gain of around 7 yards.
– Darnold hit Vaughns outside for a gain of close to 20 yards.
– Malepeai ran inside for a gain of 7 or 8 yards.
– Dorton stopped Malepeai after a short gain.
– Fink hit Pittman over the middle for a gain of over 15 yards.
– Darnold hit V. Jones for a 3-yard touchdown.