The penultimate USC spring ball practice of 2019 got physical at times, as the Trojans gear up for Saturday’s final scrimmage.
USC hit the field Thursday in shorts and shells, for a practice the started with a flash and ended with a bang.
The Trojans broke into their usual individual drills and special teams work, but when they came back together for some full-field kickoff coverage/return drills, Olaijah Griffin was one of the players who dropped back deep as a returner. Griffin still hasn’t fully returned to practice this spring as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery. But he showed today that his legs are just fine, as he looked explosive returning a few kicks (doing so without a helmet or pads). It wasn’t a surprise to see that kind of ability from him—just a reminder of what he can bring to the field once he’s fully healthy.
Individual drills were punctuated by some humor with the linebackers, as graduate assistant Michael Hutchings was made to do up-downs by his players when he went the wrong way during a drill. Linebacker Kana’i Mauga made sure to count all 10.
The wide receivers got the best of the defensive backs during one-on-ones, as Devon Williams started things with a nice move on Dominic Davis.
Matt Fink found Michael Pittman and Tyler Vaughns, twice, for touchdowns. It was a bit of an up-and-down day for Fink, but he looked really good here, and toward the end of practice when the offense was lined up at the three-yard line going in.
Isaac Taylor-Stuart had a nice pass breakup along the goal line.
Markese Stepp had a noteworthy move during run drills, where he was able to quickly shuffle at the line to find an opening to burst through. We saw some nice plays from all three scholarship running backs today, as that continues to look like a strong position.
JT Daniels was up first with the first-unit offense today and quickly hit Amon-Ra St. Brown, Pittman, and Erik Krommenhoek with passes during team drills.
Jay Tufele and Nick Figueroa combined on a sack of Jack Sears.
During 7-on-7, Fink found Pittman deep over coverage from John Houston. Pittman was everywhere today, as it was another strong practice from a guy who has brought it every day of this spring session.
Drake Jackson received a huge ovation from his defensive teammates when he won his one-on-one pass rushing battle. He came back later and put a nice move on Jalen McKenzie to get around him quickly. But he was slowed down by Alijah Vera-Tucker, who continues to perform well this spring.
Jay Tufele made a strong move on Liam Douglass, getting leverage and using one arm to toss him away and get past.
Juliano Falaniko had a really impressive spin move to get past Liam Jimmons.
Jimmons and Connor Murphy got into some extracurriculars after the whistle, as Jimmons continued his block and eventually lost his helmet.
Back to team drills, Chase Williams nearly had an interception when he made a nice break on the ball to knock away a Fink pass intended for St. Brown. Fink came back and hit Pittman over the middle for a nice gain.
Raymond Scott received some recognition from his defensive teammates when he gave Stepp a little pop after the running back caught the ball. In full pads, this would have been a pretty significant collision, and the defensive players let Stepp know about it.
Sears stepped in and found Vaughns for a touchdown, although Brandon Pili let it be known that he would have had himself a sack during a game. But Sears came right back and found Pittman for a touchdown, as the receiver put a move on Scott and dove for a touchdown.
Dominic Davis received a few ‘atta boys from head coach Clay Helton when he stripped the ball from a receiver and recovered it.
Stephen Carr got into the action with a nice run after a catch.
Helton then brought the offense down to the three-yard line, as the second units came out on the field first.
Fink was nearly perfect on four plays, as he found Williams for a quick touchdown, handed off to Stepp up the middle for a touchdown, hit John Jackson III for a touchdown, and then found Williams again for a score in the back of the endzone, though they play was brought back as Williams stepped out prior to the catch.
Daniels and the first-teams then stepped in and threw a little razzle dazzle at the defense. Vavae Malepeai scored on the first play. A flag was thrown for holding, though it was unclear who it was against.
On the second play, which turned into the final snap of the day, Tyler Vaughns was laid out by Palaie Gaoteote less than a yard from the goal line. It was just another small glimpse of what Gaoteote brings to the field and caught everyone’s attention because it was truly a smack.
Injury Report: Clayton Bradley sat out today’s practice after going for a bit on Tuesday. Andrew Vorhees went to the sideline and sat out the final portion. Caleb Tremblay, Jude Wolfe, and Solomon Tuliaupupu continue to sit out.
Notables in attendance: Damian Mama, Chad Wheeler, Kris O’Dowd, Jordan Simmons