The football was in the air on Monday as the Trojans returned to full practice in preparation for the Pac-12 conference title game on Friday against Stanford.
One of the benefits of the bye last week for USC is that the players got to take a few days off to rest their legs, and for quarterback Sam Darnold it was also a case of resting his arm, and he came out today with a zip that his coaches certainly recognized.
“Sam looked good today,” USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin said. “His arm was really fresh, as a quarterback I definitely noticed that.”
The biggest explosive play of the day came from Darnold when he hit Trevon Sidney down the middle against coverage from Ykili Ross for a touchdown. Sidney has steadily put together a solid fall, anxious to see what kind of role he can push for in spring after Steven Mitchell departs. We also saw a big gain for Joseph Lewis after Darnold ripped a pass to the left sideline, Jalen Jones tried to jump the route but he missed and Lewis raced down the sideline before Ykili was able to push him out of bounds just short of the goal line.
“I didn’t throw the ball during the off week, just wanted to give my arm a rest,” Darnold said. “And it felt really good to sling it around right now, to be honest.”
Darnold also gave his memories of the first meeting with Stanford this year, as well as his longtime association with their current QB.
“We found a rhythm in that first game and it would be awesome to play that way again to add another Pac-12 title. Stanford is always a super physical team that is in tune with their assignments, and K.J. (Costello) is doing a great job of making plays for them. I know him from Pop Warner, we were in the same league and you knew who the other good players were so we each knew who the other one was.”
One player who won’t be available for the USC defense to help pressure Costello is Porter Gustin, who was ruled out today by Trojan head coach Clay Helton.
“With the toe I don’t think Porter is going to be able to practice this week, I think he’ll have a better opportunity to play in the bowl game.”
Other injury updates today from Helton were as follows “we held Rasheem Green and Tyler Petite with their shoulders, both are day-to-day, and Velus Jones actually got in about eight periods today as he recovers from an ankle in the last game.”
One player who was not in attendance was Jamel Cook, as Helton said he is focusing on academics for the next two weeks.
Helton commented on what we noticed from his team after having a few days off for the bye week.
“We have a lot fresher legs and it was good to get some of the bumps and bruises away. There was a really good energy and a lot of juice out there, competitiveness. To be able to step away from the game for a few days, I think was very advantageous for them and for the ball coaches too. To be with our families on Thanksgiving, that doesn’t happen very often. To be able to see my mom and dad, to be with my kids, it has not happened in my 23 years as a coach, and I enjoyed it.”
“Any time you go against a David Shaw coached team you know you’re in for a physical battle, and they’ve gotten progressively better as the season has gone along. I was so impressed with the way they played Washington and Notre Dame – two teams we’ve got a lot of respect for – and the way they played in both of those games was ultra-impressive.” – Clay Helton