Garry Paskwietz and Johnny Curren give their thoughts on the first month of summer throwing sessions for the Trojans:
Garry Paskwietz: Johnny, we’re one month into the throwing sessions so let’s hit on some of the hot topics from what we’ve seen. At quarterback, I don’t think there is anything earth shattering, Cody has been Cody, and Max has continued to be the Max we saw in spring. And the freshmen have seen their share of ups and downs.
John Curren: Exactly, Kessler has pretty much performed as expected. I like the cohesiveness between himself and the receivers, particularly JuJu Smith and Steven Mitchell. I’ve also been impressed with Browne. He continues to build off a strong spring and is really putting together some strong workouts. As you mentioned, both Ricky Town and Sam Darnold flash at times, but also struggle, but that is certainly to be expected.
Garry Paskwietz: At running back, I’ve been encouraged by what we’ve seen from Tre Madden and Justin Davis in limited work. Neither has gone the whole time but they are veterans and I know what they can do, it’s more important that they are healthy and ready to go for the season and right now both look promising in that regard.
John Curren: Davis, in particular, has looked really good. He’s really moving and cutting well out there, and showing some nice vision. Madden is looking like he might be back to his former self as well. I was really encouraged by one play recently where he hauled in a deep pass down the middle and showed off some wheels that we haven’t seen since before his toe injury. We’ve also had a chance to see all three incoming freshmen now. Aca’Cedric Ware, Ronald Jones and Dominic Davis all look like players. I’ve been particularly impressed with Dominic Davis. He’s really explosive, and he’s made some outstanding plays coming out of the backfield as a receiver.
Garry Paskwietz: Yeah, Dominic Davis has a gear that you don’t see too often. I’m anxious to see how it plays once the pads come on. His HS coach was at the RSC and you could still hear the frustration in his voice about how much Dominic was hurt last year because he didn’t get to show off how good he really is. We’ve only seen Jones for one session but he sure is impressive physically. Moving out to wide receiver, lots to talk about here. I’m going to start with JuJu Smith just because i don’t want to overlook the guy who has been the consistent lead dog of the group. it’s hard to describe how polished this guy is for a sophomore who is still 18 years old but he has completely taken hold of a leadership role.
John Curren: That’s certainly true. Watching the way that Smith carries himself out there, and the way that he plays, it’s just amazing for how young he is. He’s been really impressive as of late, making highlight-reel grabs all over the field, and that’s the scary thing, he’s still getting better. Steven Mitchell has been the other major standout who has caught my eye at the receiver spot. He really looks like he’s ready to become a major part of the offensive game plan in 2015. Both of the junior college additions, Isaac Whitney and De’Quan Hampton, look like they’re ready to contribute too. As bigger receivers, they bring a different dimension to the offense out there. The surprise of this group, though, has been incoming blueshirt Deontay Burnett. He has been catching everything, and he’s another guy with an extra gear that most other players just don’t have. He probably needs some time to bulk up a little, but with what he’s shown, he’s a player to keep your eye on down the line.
Garry Paskwietz: Agree on all counts. You never really know how a JC player will make the transition until he gets here and so far, so good with both Whitney and Hampton. Moving to tight end, things are still uncertain and there continue to be a whole bunch of moving pieces. Bryce is still gone but he was on campus last week and wants to come back. Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick was not part of the summer drills until last week, he is here now but no word on his status. Cyrus Hobbi has been working out, he hasn’t been with the team for over a year and that was as an offensive lineman, who knows what is going on there? Tyler Petite just showed up, that is good, and Connor Spears and Caleb Wilson have also been out there. Nothing settled so far by any means.
John Curren: The tight end spot is probably the biggest question mark of any position by far. No one really knows how things will shake out here. Spears got a ton of work in the spring and he has continued to do so this summer. Wilson has shined the most just in terms of pure receiving skills, but he’s another newcomer who will need to bulk up. Hobbi has been fun to watch, and he’s actually shown off some better-than-expected hands, but he’s still obviously pretty raw out there. Cope-Fitzpatrick’s recent arrival is certainly a positive. If he’s on the roster, he still might be the favorite to start. And then Petite got his first workout in on Monday, and I really liked what I saw. He looks like a nice all-around option with solid skills as a pass-catcher.
Garry Paskwietz: With the lines it’s hard to judge too much with these drills in no pads but one guy who has stood out to me on the offensive line is Zach Banner, he just looks like a guy ready to take his game to the next level. And i like seeing Chad Wheeler out there, will be even nicer when he starts getting some work in.
John Curren: Banner has been impressive, and he’s also a vocal leader out there. Wheeler looks to be farther along than I expected. He even jumped in briefly during an 11-on-11 period last week, although he’s still taking it easy for the most part. Max Tuerk, of course, has been rock-solid, as has To a Lobendahn, Viane Talamaivao and Damien Mama. Nico Falah is a guy that has really made strides. It started this spring, and it’s continued through this summer. Playing tackle and center, he looks like he’ll be a nice guy to have to plug in just about anywhere.
Garry Paskwietz: On the D-line, one of the most encouraging signs to me has been the presence of kenny bigelow, even though he has been limited. What a bonus it would be to get him back as part of the rotation, Townsend too. And you have to mention how good Porter Gustin has looked at rush end, he seems to have a knack for getting in the backfield. We haven’t seen as much Jabari Ruffin as i would like, he is doing warm-up stuff but not a lot of team stuff.
John Curren: The defensive line — and the O-line for that matter — has some incredible depth right now, and that’s been one of the things that has stood out most to me. Bigelow, Townsend, Cody Temple, and this highly touted incoming freshmen will really help out here. Of the freshmen, Noah Jefferson and Jacob Daniel have looked good and they certainly have the size to contribute now. You have a nice trio of starters in Antwaun Woods, Delvon Simmons and Claude Pelon, and now you have the depth to keep them fresh. It will also be interesting to see how Jordan Simmons develops here after moving over from offensive guard.
Garry Paskwietz: Yeah, definitely paying attention to that Simmons move. i like giving it a look, he just wasn’t pushing Viane right now at RG so flip him over and take a look, you never know what might happen. At linebacker, it’s been good to see Sarao back after sitting out spring, Sark had said it was mostly precautionary to hold him out but still nice to see. How about Lamar Dawson and his string of interceptions? One of the big stories of summer so far if you ask me, Lamar just keeps laying claim to that MLB spot. Su’a looks great although he seems to be lighter than last year, not bigger.
John Curren: Sarao certainly hasn’t shown any rust, and after missing the 2014 season due to injury, Lamar Dawson had a strong spring, and he’s keeping it up this summer. He really does look like a new player out there at times. If he continues to play at the same level, he should have an outstanding year. Su’a is a little lighter, but it hasn’t affected his play. He’s also really seized that leadership role, and that’s as important a development as anything. With Olajuwon Tucker, Quinton Powell, Michael Hutchings, Cameron Smith, the return of Uchenna Nwosu, as well as newcomers Osa Masina and John Houston, this is another unit with a lot more depth now.
Garry Paskwietz: Let’s talk corner first in the secondary. Adoree’ has only taken part in one session but it was memorable, my gosh he looks good. i think Kevon has been really strong, and Biggie has been what you would have hoped in his first few weeks of summer action. That’s really good news to see that trio looking so solid. And I’m more encouraged by what we’ve seen at safety this summer than I was in spring. Plattenburg is steady but McQuay is the one who has put together the best summer in my opinion, although there is some caution there since Leon looked real good last summer too. We’ll see what happens there. you also have Chris Hawkins, and Matt Lopes, and i like what Marvell Tell has shown so far.
John Curren: Jackson certainly didn’t need to shake off any rust in his first workout back from the track, that’s for sure. He put on a real show on Monday. Seymour has been so sturdy, even this past spring, and I think with those two at corner USC is in really good shape. I also think Jonathan lockett has shown that he can play, and Marshall has shown a ton of promise as well. He’s gotten better and better with each session, and I think that’s a very good sign. At safety, I think that McQuay, Plattenburg and Hawkins have all performed well, and as you mentioned, particularly McQuay. It will be interesting to see if that extends into fall camp for him. Both Marvell Tell and Ykili Ross have flashed here as well, and it wouldn’t surprise me if one or both of those guys sees periodic duty in the fall.
Garry Paskwietz: That’s our wrap-up of the first month of the throwing sessions, look forward to seeing what happens in July.