By Johnny Curren
With Stanford coming up on Saturday, the Trojans took part in a typical full-pads practice on Wednesday, but one player noticeably sidelined throughout a majority of the session was senior cornerback Kevon Seymour, who was also limited on Tuesday after tweaking his left knee against Idaho this past weekend. Sporting a bigger brace on his knee than the one that he wore one day earlier, he did not participate in any 11-on-11 or 7-on-7 periods, although USC head coach Steve Sarkisian did say that he believed that he got more work in on Wednesday than he did on Tuesday.
With Seymour sidelined, running with the No. 1 defense at the cornerback spot opposite Adoree’ Jackson was freshman Iman Marshall.
Having performed solidly in each of the Trojans’ first two games of the season, Marshall has continued to make strides in practice, and Sarkisian appears to be confident in his abilities if he’s called upon to start against the Cardinal.
“Iman has played very well,” Sarkisian said. “He’s a physical player. For a young player his football IQ is really high, he understands the game, he gets route concepts and he’s extremely competitive. So, all of those things added together, it’s allowed him just to play very competitive football as a true freshman. He hasn’t been perfect, but I think his level of play really increased from Week 1 to Week 2, and he’s obviously getting extended reps out here in Week 3. He’s doing a really good job.”
Going with the No. 2 defense at the two cornerback spots on Wednesday was Jonathan Lockett, who got the start against Idaho, as well as freshman Isaiah Langley, who had been lining up with the scout team up until this week.
All eyes on McCaffrey on Saturday
The Cardinal are well-known for the grind-it-out, physical brand of play that they bring to the table, but Sarkisian also brought up a number of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball that the Trojans will need to keep especially close tabs on, including senior quarterback Kevin Hogan – who threw for a career-high 341 yards last week – wide receivers Devon Cajuste and Michael Rector, and tight ends Dalton Schultz and Austin Hooper.
No one received for praise from the Trojans head coach, however, than Stanford’s do-it-all running back Christian McCaffrey, who is averaging 168.5 all purpose yards per game through the first two contests of the season.
“I think a lot of what they do revolves around McCaffrey,” Sarkisian said. “He’s a really versatile back. He’s their kick returner. He’s their punt returner. He’s their leading rusher and receiver, so we need to know where No. 5 is every snap, essentially. He’s going to get fly-sweeps, he’s going to get wildcat stuff, so he kind of starts their engine.”
Looking further at the matchup with Stanford, Sarkisian said that one weapon that the Trojans have at their disposal now, that they haven’t had in quite some time, is depth.
That fact was made evident in each of USC’s first two games, with the Trojans rotating players in and out of the lineup with tremendous frequency, particularly on defense.
“We think our depth is our strength,” Sarkisian said. “These are going to become fourth-quarter games, and we want to be at our best in the fourth quarter. We want a fresh football team that’s executing at a high level in critical moments, which a year ago, we weren’t. And I think we have a chance to do that this year.”
News and notes
– Inside linebacker Lamar Dawson, coming off a rib injury, took part in the entire practice for the second consecutive day, spending most of the session with the No. 2 defense at ‘mike’ linebacker alongside ‘will’ linebacker Osa Masina. Freshman Cameron Smith (mike) and senior Anthony Sarao (will) went with the No. 1 group for most of the day.
– Freshman defensive tackle Kevin Scott went to the sideline with an unspecified injury and remained on the trainers’ table for the last half of practice.
– Defensive tackle Jordan Simmons (knee) did not participate in practice.
– Adoree’ Jackson spent most of the day on defense, but he did get some work on offense as well during a late service team period.
– The No. 1 offensive line group for a majority of the day was comprised of Chad Wheeler at LT, Damien Mama at LG, Max Tuerk at C, Toa Lobendahn at RG and Zach Banner at RT. Viane Talamaivao also took some reps with the No. 1 offense at LG, and Chuma Edoga saw time with the first group at RT.
– Freshman Rasheem Green continued to line up with the No. 2 defense at defensive end alongside NT Cody Temple and DE Claude Pelon.
– There was a big-time collision between defensive backs Marvell Tell and Isaiah Langley on a passing play to Isaac Whitney, with the big wide out making the grab below them and out of harms way. Both players finished practice out and appeared to be fine.
– The Trojans got plenty of special teams work in on Wednesday. Kris Albarado had a solid day punting the ball, Jackson had a couple nice kickoff returns, and Delvon Simmons came up with a blocked field goal.
– Suiting up for his second practice with the Trojans, blind freshman long-snapper Jake Olson continued to get plenty of work in with the other specialists.
– Sarkisian pointed to the play of the tight ends as a pleasant surprise through the early goings of this season. Having lost the services of Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick and Bryce Dixon prior to the start of the 2015 campaign, the position-group was a major question mark, but the Trojans head coach said that he has liked what he’s seen from Taylor McNamara, Tyler Petite and Connor Spears so far.
– It’s currently Student-Athlete Awareness Week at USC. One day after lauding the academic and off-the-field efforts of Cody Kessler and Antwaun Woods, Sarkisian praised safety Leon McQuay III – a music industry major – and Robby Kolanz – a broadcast journalism major.
– Former USC defensive lineman Shaun Cody was among those in attendance.
– Tre Madden opened up the first 11-on-11 period with a seven-yard run up the middle.
– Cody Kessler hit Jalen Greene outside for a gain of seven or eight yards before John Plattenburg made the stop.
– Justin Davis made a couple nice jukes on his way to a 10-yard gain before stepping out-of-bounds.
– Kessler connected with Steven Mitchell Jr. outside for a gain of close to 20 yards before Marshall made the stop.
– Su’a Cravens chased down Ronald Jones II for a loss.
– Kessler hit Darreus Rogers in the corner of the end zone for a 25-yard TD.
– Max Browne connected with De’Quan Hampton for a 20-yard gain with Langley in coverage.
– Whitney made a diving grab over the middle on a pass from Browne, with Tell and Langley colliding into each other.
– Browne found a wide-open Soma Vainuku along the sideline for a big gain.
– Browne connected with Robby Kolanz along the sideline for a 29-yard gain with Jalen Jones in coverage.
– Malik Dorton stopped Dominic Davis for no gain.
– Smith stopped Jones after a four-yard gain.
– Kessler hit Pinner outside for a gain of close to 10 yards.
– Jones bounced a run outside and gained 11 or 12 yards.
– Porter Gustin and a host of others stopped Aca’Cedric Ware for no gain.
– Jones ran up the middle for a gain of seven or eight yards before Masina made the stop.
– Matt Lopes and Co. stopped Ware for no gain.
– Kessler hit Petite outside for a gain of 15 yards before Marshall made the stop.
– Kessler hit Christian Tober outside for a gain of eight or nine yards.
– Temple wrapped up Madden after a short gain.
– Michael Hutchings sacked Kessler.
– Kessler hit Petite over the middle for a 15-yard gain before Tell made the stop.
– Cravens tackled J. Davis for a loss.
– Pelon sacked Browne.