The Trojans will be back on the field tomorrow for player-run-practices and it’s always a great chance to see how some players are progressing, any players back from injuries, the summer newcomers, etc.
The sessions usually take place immediately following a morning team conditioning session with Ivan Lewis and his staff. The PRP’s begin with warm-up routes for the skill players while the linemen work separately on blocking drills and walk-throughs. Eventually there is a 7-on-7 period, and an 11-on-11 period where the linemen are brought in. The plays are scripted (in the past it has been around 65 per day) and the coaches work with the players ahead of time to let them know how to structure the various periods. Per NCAA rules, no coaches are allowed to be present during these sessions (only a member of the training staff).
One change in the media coverage this year is that we will not be able to shoot video of any of the 11-on-11 or skeleton passing drill sessions. This is obviously designed to prevent footage of plays or formations from getting out and it’s a perfectly understandable request. We will still be able to shoot footage from other parts of the sessions, as well as take still photos, and report on what we see.
Speaking of what we will see, here are 5 players or groups I’m interested to see when things get started:
* The Newcomers: It’s like unwrapping your Christmas presents for the first time. What does Stephen Carr look like in the backfield? How does Joseph Lewis look physically when compared to the other receivers? Where is Austin Jackson lining up, could he get a look at right tackle? Could Levi Jones push John Houston? And what about those safeties?
* John Houston: John went through spring basically unchallenged as the starter at will linebacker, particularly after the knee injury to early entry freshman Tayler Katoa, who was serving as his primary back-up. We saw Grant Moore step in nicely as a reserve, and as mentioned above we will also see Levi Jones thrown into that mix right away to see where he fits. This summer would be a good opportunity for John to begin to assert himself as the starter if he is indeed the guy for the job.
* Jackie Jones: I don’t think there’s any question Jones is the odds-on favorite to move into the starting corner spot vacated by Adoree’ Jackson, but Jackie didn’t close the door on the competition in spring. In particular, Isaiah Langley was keeping it close, at least until the closing stretch when Isaiah was understandably impacted by the death of his mother. And the depth chart gets even more crowded when Jonathan Lockett returns from his hip injury, not to mention the continued emergence of Jamel Cook. It’s not a matter of physical skill for Jackie, it’s a matter of knowing his playbook, and a big part of that comes in the summer when the coaches aren’t watching.
* Josh Imatorbhebhe: There was a lot of attention paid to the receiver spot in spring with Deontay Burnett emerging as the leader of the group, and the combination of Michael Pittman and Tyler Vaughns showing that they appear ready to step into the starting shoes of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers. What we didn’t hear a lot of was Josh Imatorbhebhe’s name. There were a few instances where Josh (photo above) stood out, but not a lot of them as he was limited early in spring due to illness and never really had a full impact. If he’s healthy now I would expect him to remind everyone quickly that he deserves to be considered for a bigger role as well.
* Roy Hemsley/Chris Brown: It’s hard to evaluate an offensive lineman too much in these workouts but right now it’s looking like these two could be competing for the 5th starting spot on the offensive line so there will be a spotlight on their progress. Brown has been here before, he pushed Damien Mama at left guard last summer before Mama settled in once the season started.