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USC Practice Report (8-6)

Clay Helton kept the pressure on from the defense today at USC practice with a lot of team drills, including a team run period and plenty of pressure on the quarterbacks.

“This is going to be an important week for us with six straight practices, five of them in pads, and a scrimmage,” Helton said. “I want things to be ultra competitive as we evaluate our quarterbacks and we got that today. I would take 25 practices like this in camp if I could. And no surprise I walked away from today saying our pass rush is pretty good.”

In the team run segment held on Brian Kennedy Field the starting line-ups were as follows:

Offense: JT Daniels, Aca’Cedric Ware, Michael Pittman, Tyler Vaughns, Velus Jones, Josh Falo, Clayton Bradley, Chris Brown, Toa Lobendahn, Andrew Vorhees, Chuma Edoga

Defense: Porter Gustin, Malik Dorton, Brandon Pili, Christian Rector, John Houston, Jordan Iosefa (ILB for Cameron Smith), Isaiah Langley, Iman Marshall, Ajene Harris, Bubba Bolden, Marvell Tell

Note: Daniels took the first teams reps because it was his turn. Matt Fink took them on the first day, Jack Sears on the second day and Daniels today.

First play was a run by Ware and Gustin threw him to the ground after no gain. On the next play it was Rector holding him to no gain. JT completed a pass in the flat for a nice gain to Tyler Petite against Bolden. Fink came in and tried a run around the left side but C.J. Pollard was there to run him out of bounds. Fink hit Trevon Sidney and Pollard was there again for the stop. Juliano Falaniko came in for a TFL on Fink. Jack Sears came in at QB and there were a couple low snaps from Toa Lobendahn, which brought Brett Neilon in while Toa went to the back to work on snaps with Holden Thomas. Sears pitched it to Vavae Malepeai who was tackled behind the line by John Houston. Daniels threw the ball away after pressure from Jay Tufele. JT hit Vaughns on a slant with a tackle by Olijah Griffin. Fink tried to get out of the pocket with Porter Gustin breathing down his neck and he threw it away, complete to Ykili Ross who was standing on the sideline with the defense. Sears missed an open Michael Pittman down the middle and Pittman voiced his displeasure. Markese Stepp had the best run of the drill when he went off Alijah Vera-Tucker at right guard and went for a touchdown of about 35 yards. Sears hit Pittman along the right sideline and as Isaiah Pola-Mao came up to make the tackle it was Pittman who lowered his shoulder to make the hit.

“What really stood out to me in that drill was the overall depth on the lines,” Helton said. “The RB’s and OL did good assignment-wise with the pressures from the defense, there were no turnovers, and I like the depth with guys like Jalen McKenzie, Brett Neilon and Alijah Vera-Tucker. Those guys are having a good camp so far, which is critical to build our depth.”

As usual there was a lot of special teams work and on the kickoff return drills we saw the following guys back returning kicks at various points: Stephen Carr, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Michael Pittman, Velus Jones, Ajene Harris and Greg Johnson.

The day ended with an extended 11-on-11 team period with “two-spotting”, which meant that there were two full units going at the same time. JT Daniels and Matt Fink alternated with one group, while Jack Sears and Holden Thomas alternated with the other. The Daniels-Fink group is the one that worked on the side of the field where the media is stationed so that’s the one we were able to see.

JT tried to hit Pittman to the left on the first play but it was incomplete, he went right back to Pittman down the right side against coverage from Marshall and Tell but it was Pittman who made the best adjustment to the ball and he came down with the deep completion. JT scrambled out of trouble to his right and got rid of the ball to Josh Falo but the pass was dropped. JT threw low across the middle and Trevon Sidney went down to make the nice catch. Lobendahn sent another low snap back to JT but he picked it up quickly and fired a strike to Josh Imatorbhebhe, who got a step on Griffin and went for a touchdown, and he was met with a leaping chest bump from Austin Jackson. Gustin, Dorton and Caleb Tremblay combined for a TFL on Daniels. JT hit Vaughns, who got past Langley for a first down. Fink hit Velus for a short gain with a tackle by Pollard. Fink tried to hit Falo but it fell incomplete. Fink over the middle to Velus with Chase Williams on the quick tackle in traffic. Daniels hit Vavae with screen but Greg Johnson was there right away, and then Daniels eluded pressure from Marlon Tuipulotu and hit Tyler Petite.

Injury report: Cameron Smith and Ykili Ross continued to sit out with hamstrings. Randal Grimes and Jake Lichtenstein were able to get back out there but Erik Krommenhoek left early with a tight hamstring.

In attendance: USC athletic director Lynn Swann and senior associate athletic director Steve Lopes.

Bryan Ellis on Jack Sears “It’s amazing how far along he has come in 5 months. He’s always been a good passer but he didn’t always know where to throw the ball, now he has more of an understanding of what he’s doing.”

Matt Fink on using his athleticism “The coaches have encouraged us to use our athleticism when the time calls for it. We’ve incorporated some QB designed-runs, some zone reads, and it’s not just for me, it’s helpful for our whole unit to have plays that use our athleticism.”

Tee Martin on JT Daniels early camp impressions “He can make all the throws, his deep ball is really good, I’ll put it like that. There was a blitz period today that was pretty much bringing everything we can and he did a good job of managing protections and keeping his eyes downfield when the pocket may have collapsed.”

Clay Helton on Toa Lobendahn snapping issues “I don’t have any concern yet. When the pads come on there is reality for anyone who handles the ball, and that includes centers. There is some rust that Toa needs to shake off, this was his first live action, just need to get him to follow through and we worked on that a bit after practice, he just needs to get that rust off.”

Garry Paskwietz
Garry Paskwietz

A 1988 graduate of USC with a degree in Sports Information. Worked in sports marketing for LA Lakers and Miller Brewing Company. Began covering the Trojans in 1996 with the Trojan Football Fax. Founded WeAreSC in November 1998 with stints at Scout and ESPN. Emmy-winner while covering high school football at Fox Sports West.

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