After an opening fall camp practice that saw the headlines focused on freshman QB JT Daniels and the offense it was the Trojan defense who took center stage on day two as if to remind everyone that the defense is supposed to be the strength of the team in 2018.
For the second day in a row it was Ajene Harris with an interception (today it was off a pass by Jack Sears) and Iman Marshall with some physical play in the secondary, including a deep pass break-up against Michael Pittman on a pass from Matt Fink and another pass batted down for Biggie when Fink tried to throw it up high for Pittman. We also saw Greg Johnson with a strong pass break-up against Tyler Vaughns on a pass from JT Daniels and Isaiah Langley knocked away an attempt for Amon-Ra St. Brown.
The secondary was helped with good pressure up front on the quarterbacks from guys like Christian Rector and Levi Jones. Rector had a sack on Daniels, while Jones and Kana’I Mauga got into the backfield quickly to force J.T. to throw the ball into the ground. A pitch to Stephen Carr was stopped in the backfield by C.J. Pollard, Rector and Jones. Daniels felt pressure quickly on another play and tried a quick throw that could have been picked by Brandon Pili. Jones also had a PBU on a pass attempt from Sears to Josh Falo.
“We put a lot of pressure on the quarterback today and you saw that things weren’t as clean as they were yesterday,” USC coach Clay Helton said. “They are going to see even more pressure too, that was the last 7-on-7 they are going to see for a while because we want to make it as hard as we can in live situations to evaluate them in pass rush situations where they have to get comfortable in the pocket, find the passing lanes against the length of our defense. Today was just ok, we’ve got to get better.”
While the defense won the day there were some highlight plays for the offense. The best play was an acrobatic grab by Vaughns of a 45 yard throw from Fink near the goal line and Langley wrapped Vaughns up and tossed him down into the end zone for the score. Daniels hit Carr down the right side and Stephen got to high speed in a hurry. Falo had a couple grabs in a row. Sears hit Josh Imatorbhebhe down the middle and Josh sprinted for extra yardage. Aca’Cedric Ware had back-to-back long runs down the right side. There was also a little stare down between St. Brown and Bubba Bolden after a short completion where Bolden tried to aggressively strip the ball, it was quickly broken up.
Schedule update: The Trojans will scrimmage three times in fall camp; two live scrimmages and one mock game. The first scrimmage will take place next Saturday night. There will be two times in camp where the team will be in the Coliseum.
Coach Gustin: Clay Helton has a little case of losing his voice so he gave Porter Gustin the whistle and notes for the morning walk-through and Helton said Porter did a hell of a job.
Injury update: Ykili Ross and Cameron Smith both left practice early with tight hamstrings and did not return. Helton said it was preventative to pull them and they will see where things are at on Monday.
Clay Helton quotebook
The DB corps has really made some great strides early in camp, it’s a pretty competitive group and their going against some good wideouts with guys like Tyler Vaughns, Michael Pittman, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Velus Jones. When they get clashing it’s pretty fun to watch, I enjoy it. It’s hot out here, it’s the nature of camp, tempers get up and you get ultra competitive.
We need to do a great job on special teams, not just getting by, but excelling. You’re seeing so far we’re putting some of our better players on special teams, and training some of our young guys.
We’re going to need all three of our backs. On average we may have around 80 plays in a game, which means 40 runs, and no one man is going to carry the ball 40 times. Plus our backs catch the ball out of the backfield, all of them are tremendous pass catchers. You have to have multiple guys who lean on each other. When USC has been at its best you’ve got more than one great back. Not good backs, great backs, and we hope we can provide that this year. We do have packages where two backs will be in there at the same time, that’s one of our stronger position groups.