As the game against Texas looms closer it’s becoming more and more apparent that the Trojans will have some injuries to deal with.
There was the news earlier in the week about Daniel Imatorbhebhe being held out with his hip/groin/thigh injury, and that obviously leaves a void with a tight end who was projected to possibly be the #2 reception guy for the team this year. Tyler Petite has been starting in Daniel’s place, and we saw more of Cary Angeline and Josh Falo in practice this week.
Then there came the news today that Porter Gustin had surgery Wednesday morning for a small crack in his big toe (two screws were inserted). Clay Helton called it a similar injury the one JuJu Smith-Schuster suffered a few years ago with his hand. JuJu had surgery on a Monday and was able to play on a Saturday, it remains to be seen how fast Porter can respond after surgery on a Wednesday. The good news for Porter is that the MRI for his shoulder came back negative, so that issue is simply a matter of pain threshold for Gustin.
“Our doctors got word last night that Porter [Gustin] had a small crack in his big toe that required surgery,” Helton said. “We did that surgery early this morning. It went very successful. It will be based on the doctor’s opinion and the pain of Porter, and what he goes through and what he can take, whether he can play or not. It’s day-to-day. Porter’s a tough kid, one of the toughest I’ve been around in 23 years. I don’t know if it’s too late for him to play in this game or not, but he told me ‘Coach, I want to play’. I think he definitely will be ready for next week, but it will be very close for this week, just being realistic.”
Porter is obviously a critical element to the Trojans defensive front, and we saw Connor Murphy and Christian Rector (photo above) getting work in his place today in various formations.
Other guys held out today included Chuma Edoga, John Houston, Rasheem Green (limited), Marlon Tuipulotu and Iman Marshall.
“Chuma [Edoga], he did not practice again today. He did cardio. We’ll give him one more day with that hand, and then we’re going to wrap it up, club it, and see how he functions tomorrow. I’ll give you more information with that. John Houston is getting a little bit better, but we held him again from the stinger that he suffered Saturday. Jordan Iosefa is working in his spot right now. We pulled Rasheem [Green] just for a little bit. He had a sore toe that we didn’t want to get any worse, so we pulled him today. I don’t expect it to be a problem for Saturday. And Michael Pittman practiced sparingly today. He’s still trying to come back, looked OK. We’ll see how it goes continues as the week goes on. With Tuipulotu, I think that with that sprain, they had mentioned one to three weeks. He has not practiced, he has not really moved around, so I would think that he’s doubtful at this point. We’re working right now both with Brandon Pili and with Kenny Bigelow at that nose tackle position, as well as Malik Dorton inside too. You know, this is a high-tempo offense that does a lot of plays, so you’ll see people rolling in and out as we go through the game, especially with the number of plays that they can put up.”
Andrew Vorhees practiced in place of Edoga, both Isaiah Langley and Ajene Harris took reps at corner in place of Marshall, Jordan Iosefa took reps for Houston, Rector took reps for Green, Kenny Bigelow and Brandon Pili took reps for Tuipulotu,
In the placekicking portion of practice, it was Chase McGrath and Reid Budrovich taking kicks as Budrovich steps in as an option with Michael Brown out for the year with a knee injury. McGrath hit 9-11 kicks, while Budrovich hit 4-9 with two kicks blocked, one by Kenny Bigelow.
As for the team drills, Tyler Vaughns had a good day, as did Velus Jones. Cary Angeline made a catch down the middle with outstretched arms. All three of those guys could have extended opportunities this week against a Longhorn secondary that appears vulnerable to a passing attack led by Sam Darnold.
“I cried when USC lost that game” – Chris Hawkins, talking about the last time USC played Texas
* A note from the USC athletic department reminding all fans to arrive early to avoid long lines at the ticket gates. Last week there were a lot of people who had to wait 45-60 minutes to get through the gates, and a bigger crowd is expected this week.
* It’s also the annual shoe drive conducted by Clay Helton. Last year there were 1,000 pairs of shoes donated, this year the goal is 5,000.
“Just a quick reminder of our second annual shoe drive that’s coming up this Saturday,” Helton said. “We had the good fortune last year of raising over a thousand pairs of shoes for our homeless youth in our community, and being able to distribute those shoes, and to feed children in the L.A. community. This year our goal is to raise 5,000 pairs of shoes. And in this game, with over 90,000 fans coming, we hope that we can accomplish that. So, all Trojan fans, all Texas fans that are going to be there, this is a great opportunity to help the Los Angeles community, so we’re asking for your help there.”
Clay Helton talks Texas
“When I look at this team, and the amount of points that they’re putting up, 48 a game, you have to find the category – Where is that coming from? And you look at it, and you look at this team’s third-down efficiency, which is one of the top in the country at 58 percent, they’re keeping drives alive, and doing a really nice job of it. So, we concentrated on that today, especially defensively. Obviously, we’re doing a nice job ourselves on third downs, and that work today will hopefully pay off Saturday. The other thing is the change of pace for us. We go from a huddle team with Stanford, to a very high-tempo team that can run a lot of plays and go extremely fast, so we worked that also today.”
Any concern about a let-down after a big win last week?
“I’m hoping with the lessons that we learned from last year with the older kids, you know, this reminds me of the Washington game. You have a big win, and then you’ve got a big emotional game with a UCLA and a Notre Dame, and that’s what I’ve been referencing to. Each game, when you look at this schedule, they’re all Pac-12 games that are going to be ultra-important. It’s Notre Dame, it’s Texas…you never look up on the schedule and say, ‘wow, you can’t show up to this game. You’re going to get your butt beat.’ And that’s just a reality. And with this team putting up the points that it does, I was very honest with the guys. I’ve looked at their personnel. I think, really, this is a sleeping giant. It’s a team that I think is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. And with each game under Tom Herman, they’re just going to get better and better. So, we can’t have a let-down, or we’re going to get beat.
Will a sellout with 92,000 help take away any concern of a let-down?
“Our fans are so electric. To feel 92,000 people, that’s what you live for, that’s why you come here.”