The Trojans continued preparations for a road trip to Colorado today with a shorts and shoulder pads practice under the lights and with the temperatures shifting to chillier weather.
The weather certainly won’t be a factor in Boulder, maybe a little cold but with a midday start it’s not expected to be too bad.
The report is also good on the injury front for the Trojans, especially when it comes to the skill players on the offensive side of the ball. All four tailbacks are expected to play (Stephen Carr had a real nice run up the middle during a drill on Brian Kennedy Field) and the presence of Daniel Imatorbhebhe at the tight end spot just makes such a difference these days.
We continue to see Toa Lobendahn and Chuma Edoga sidelined, with Austin Jackson (LT) and Clayton Johnston (RT) taking their place, but at this point in the season Jackson and Johnston (as well as Andrew Vorhees) have played enough that there isn’t the worry about their inexperience. Plus, the Colorado run defense is the 2nd worst in the Pac-12, not to mention the fact that the Trojans have run the ball for over 300 yards two weeks in a row.
“It’s been good to see Vavae [Malepeai] really excel,” USC coach Clay Helton said. “I think he’s going to be able to help us. Josh Falo, who’s been out for a couple weeks, really had another good practice today. I think he’ll be able to help us.”
On the defensive side of the ball, we continue to see Oluwole Betiku get the majority of work with the 1’s in place of Uchenna Nwosu but we also saw Levi Jones taking reps with the 1’s as well. Jones is a player that many practice observers think is one the verge of doing big things so it will be interesting to see how much of an opportunity he gets in this game. Jordan Iosefa is with the 1’s at the predator spot with Porter Gustin and Christian Rector out, although Helton is not ruling Nwosu or Rector out for this game just yet.
“We’ll see where Uchenna [Nwosu] is tomorrow,” Helton said. “I know his ankle is feeling a lot better. We held him today. We moved around Christian Rector again today. He’s moving extremely well, and we’ll see where he’s at with the hand here in a day or so. Christian is listed day-to-day right now, and it’s just doctors clearing him, and how he feels. You know, he’s not experienced any pain in the football movements that he’s doing right now. It’s just a matter whether you club it up or not and go. But we’ll get more clarity I think tomorrow and Friday.”
Iman Marshall also returned at corner although we continued to see Isaiah Langley get the first team reps, as Iman went with the 2’s.
During practice, we saw Chris Tilbey work as the scout team punter with rugby style kicks, as Colorado has an Australian style punter who has been very successful this year. Jack Sears had a touchdown pass to fellow San Clemente alum Jake Russell, and Jackie Jones had a pick of Matt Fink.
Among those in attendance were former USC quarterbacks Jim Hardy and John Mazur, and former OL Damien Mama, who received hugs and warm welcomes from players as they headed to pre-practice warm-up drills.
“We coach all our guys in the room the same. For an outside linebacker, you want a guy who is athletic, can change direction and set an edge. You also want them to rush the passer but we can teach that” – Clancy Pendergast on seeing success with multiple players at outside linebacker this year
Are the Colorado defensive schemes different this year?
It’s very similar to last year. They base out of the 3-4 in normal down and distances, and then when you get to third-down and two-minutes, they’ve got a little bit of a nickel package that’s a little bit different than last year, but they will go four-down and put nickel on. But the 3-4 schemes are very similar to the success that they had. You know, it looks like Coach McIntyre recruited to that personnel group and kind of stuck with what was working for them.
Since Notre Dame you guys have been pretty good at getting to the quarterback. What have you seen that’s worked?
I think we’ve been good the whole year, and we lead the country right now in the number of sack, I think, at 34. But to get five sacks vs. Arizona, who only allowed five sacks the entire year, I thought was exceptional, especially with the athlete that was back there. I thought the kids did a tremendous job. One of the fine arts of rushing the passer is not getting too far up the field when a quarterback steps up, and being on his level so you can so you can retrace. We’ve had some great advantages right now with our outside rush, pushing quarterbacks up to our interior defensive linemen and getting them on the ground. So, I credit kids for taking their fundamentals and their technique, and carrying them into game day. What they do on this practice field, they’re really carrying into Saturdays, and it’s producing results.
Why has Jordan Iosefa been able to pick up that Predator outside linebacker spot so quickly?
When we signed Jordan we thought we were getting the best of both worlds. He can be an interior linebacker or an edge player in Clancy’s system. You see the same thing, kind of, with Levi Jones. In Jordan’s case, I think that he did a wonderful job of stepping up in that Notre Dame game, and then with a week of practice did an exceptional against Khalil and Arizona. Those edge players really held in check, and that’s a big part when you play a very athletic quarterback, is being that zone read, the ends have to be disciplined and they have to be athletic. And credit Uchenna and credit Jordan, I thought they did a magnificent job in that game.