The second day of USC Trojans spring ball featured another good look at Graham Harrell’s offense, a surprise addition in the defensive backfield, and a standout day from Tyler Vaughns.
Harrell in Control
Graham Harrell is taking control of the offense. His stamp is on everything going on, and watching him oversee it all while standing atop of Dedeaux Field is probably going to be a familiar site.
After practice today he said everything is about doing the little things the right way, mentioning footwork and having your eyes in the right place as specific things in creating good quarterbacks. He is really big on footwork, mentioning that specific quality more than a few times today.
“If your feet are right, the ball is probably right,” Harrell said. “If your feet are wrong, the ball is probably wrong.”
But what stands out the most about Harrell is his unfailing confidence in what he does. Asked about how offensive line coach Tim Drevno and the other assistants are working in this offense, Harrell laughed a bit.
“At times, I think they look at me like I’m crazy,” Harrell said. “They’re getting used to the way we do things.”
Harrell said they have four run plays and joked that Drevno would say, “What do you mean we have four run plays?…This is all I’m doing?”
“That’s all you have to do,” Harrell said he would say. “Get great at it.”
And that’s what stands out. Harrell knows exactly what he wants the offense to look like and he isn’t aiming to be any more than that. Everything he does is in an attempt to get players to do the right thing over, and over, and over, and over, until they can’t do it wrong. Two practice days in and he’s not ready to make any sweeping conclusions about his quarterbacks.
“They’re all coachable,” Harrell said. “They all have talent…Who does their job over and over and over is going to be the best quarterback.”
The defensive backfield received a boost on Thursday, as cornerback Greg Johnson returned to the field. Johnson entered his name in the transfer portal last week, but practiced with the Trojans. Following practice, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast could only confirm that Johnson practiced, and was noncommittal about whether that means he is fully back on the team and out of the portal. He said Clay Helton would have to answer that question, though Helton was not available after today’s practice.
C.J. Pollard was at practice, though he is injured and not participating.
Clayton Bradley took first team reps at left tackle, with Austin Jackson unavailable. After practice, offensive line coach Tim Drevno praised Jackson for taking a leadership role among the offensive linemen.
Two days after the offense seemed to be humming through one-on-one battles, the defensive backs came out firing on Thursday. Talanoa Hufanga had a terrific pass breakup on a ball from JT Daniels to John Jackson III, and more than a few passes fell incomplete.
The wide receivers fought back, however, as Devon Williams made a nice grab along the sideline, then Vaughns and Michael Pittman came up with touchdown catches. Amon-Ra St. Brown made a nice diving catch in the endzone for a touchdown, then he put a nice move on Hufanga for another score.
Raymond Scott jumped a route and grabbed an interception, then received an especially warm reception from his defensive teammates. Scott worked with the safeties again on Thursday.
Isaac Taylor-Stuart had a nice pass breakup, and he is definitely looking comfortable out there. Clancy Pendergast mentioned the reps Taylor-Stuart is getting this spring as being valuable.
Matt Fink hooked up with Jackson III on a nice play.
Alijah Vera-Tucker looked really good getting out in space and putting a downfield block on a defender.
Kedon Slovis was first up for the offense and threw an interception, then came back with a near interception shortly after that. He’s still throwing the ball well, but those were both thrown behind the receivers.
Vaughns went up high (a theme during today’s practice) for a few nice receptions, before Taylor-Stuart made a terrific play on the goal line to bat away a nice throw from Jack Sears to Vaughns.
Notables in attendance: Mark Sanchez, Jake Olson, Bubba Bolden, 2020 OT Jeffrey Persi (San Juan Capistrano, Calif./JSerra).