by Garry Paskwietz
As the Trojans pick back up with spring ball drills today, here is a look at some of the key areas to watch over the next four weeks.
1 Offensive identity: This will be particularly true in the two Coliseum practice sessions, which figure to be as much of a scrimmage situation as anything we will see this spring. How much will the quarterback be under center? What kind of new play wrinkles might be seen? Will the offensive line show signs of asserting themselves as a veteran unit? Does Max Browne continue to show that he is the guy at quarterback? Obviously these questions won’t be answered in their entirety but they will be clues about the plans that Clay Helton and offensive play-caller Tee Martin are putting in place.
2. Continuing QB battle: As referenced above, Max Browne is off to a strong start after one week of drills as he attempts to earn the starting job but the competition certainly isn’t over by any means. Sam Darnold has had his moments as well, and I’m not ruling out some kind of specific role for Jalen Greene either. But if Max can come out and be the kind of consistent leader that Helton is looking for then it’s hard to imagine him not getting the job.
3. Callaway and Udeze impact on lines: There will be a lot of focus on the continued physical efforts from both sides of the line of scrimmage and this is where Neil Callaway and Kenechi Udeze come into play. Callaway has a ton of experience to work with and it will be a matter of finding the best combination of players to work within his style of play. Udeze, on the other hand, has an inexperienced group of interior linemen but the good news is there is a lot of talent that got their feet wet last year and should be ready for more. I like what I’ve seen from both coaches through the first week, and am anxious to see more.
4. Seniors making a push: In the opening three practices we’ve seen multiple seniors making a case for increased playing time in their final year. At inside linebacker, Michael Hutchings has been lining up as a starter in each practice, and he was joined by Quinton Powell as a starter in the third practice of spring. Obviously one of those starting spots will be manned by Cameron Smith in the fall but it would be a tremendous boost to the overall depth of the position if Hutchings and/or Powell can be counted on to play larger roles. Leon McQuay had a pair of pick-sixes in the Saturday practice of the first week and that is sure to get the attention of the coaches. Jordan Simmons was moved from defensive line to his original position of offensive guard, and took plenty of first team reps at right guard while the coaches look at different combinations.
5. Young guys looking for more: Isaiah Langley is taking advantage of the absence of Adoree’ Jackson so far and he had a pick-six of his own off Max Browne in the Saturday practice. Tyler Petite has been working primarily as the starter at tight end and he could be one of the more improved players on the roster based on what we’ve seen so far, he’s playing with a lot of confidence. The three-man interior d-line unit deserves mention too as the group of Rasheem Green (photo above), Noah Jefferson and Kenny Bigelow could establish something strong if they continue to develop. and it feels somewhat odd to put Porter Gustin in this category because it’s almost a given that he will be a main contributor this year but the reality is that it would still be a big step up if/when it happens.