The injury bug continues to bite the Trojans as they prepare for ASU, as Christian Rector left practice today with a hand injury, which removed another depleted body from the USC front seven.
Jordan Iosefa was the primary guy to take his place in the line-up after Rector left, and USC coach Clay Helton didn’t have an update on Rector as of his post-practice press gathering.
“I’ll have more information on Christian tomorrow,” said Helton. “We’ll see if it’s serious. Any time you leave it’s not good. I’m, going to visit with the doctors tonight and see what’s exactly the plan.
“We can move Jordan Iosefa out there. Plus, we have Connor Murphy and Wole [Oluwole Betiku] for bigger packages, if they get into 11 or 12 personnel. So, we’ve got a host of guys that we can get out there that have playing experience. We’ll see how Christian is doing. Obviously, he’s been a force for us in the last four to five games. So we’ll cross our fingers and see what happens.”
Iosefa saw some time against Notre Dame in that OLB role after being at ILB most of the year, and Helton liked what he saw in that stint.
“He did good,” Helton said. “Obviously, this is a little bit more of a balanced team, so pass rushing is going to be a premium also. They’re a bunch that throws for over 260 a game, and they have two good backs, so they’re a little bit more of a balanced offense than what we saw last week, so being able to come off the edge with speed is going to be important. And what we actually watched today as a team was last year’s tape of getting to the quarterback and applying pressure, and how important that was with both four, five and six-man rush.”
There was no return for Josh Fatu today as he continues in concussion protocol following an auto accident, which meant Brandon Pili continuing in his role as the starter at nose.
“I think Brandon is showing great promise,” said USC DL coach Kenechi Udeze. “This is a guy who was headed for a redshirt year as of a few weeks ago, and he’s still working his way into playing shape. He has so much athletic ability. I think we see why you want to redshirt linemen because they are so much better when they finally play, we saw it when I redshirted, when guys like Sedrick Ellis and Lawrence Jackson were able to redshirt, but when a guy has to play early you’ve got to get him ready.”
Porter Gustin was in attendance at practice, he wasn’t dressed in uniform but he was actively watching the drills, pacing back and forth like a guy who was ready to get back in the action. Helton said they will try to work on some change of direction moves with Gustin tomorrow.
There was a lot of work today on special teams, particularly on punt return, with Jackie Jones as the primary return man with Ajene Harris also getting some reps. The drill wasn’t particularly sharp at the start, including Jones, and John Baxter made clear his desire for an understanding that it was a live drill. Jackie did spend a lot of time after practice working on fielding punts from the jugs machine.
Among the highlight plays during the day was a TD run early from Stephen Carr (Helton said he “does not” look great to play this week), a real nice PBU from Isaiah Langley against Michael Pittman and a Jamel Cook PBU against Velus Jones.
“I believe in self-motivation. If you’re not ready to come out here and play at a high level then I don’t know what you’re doing out here.” – Cameron Smith
More quotes from Helton
What about Clancy Pendgergast’s scheme have the players maybe struggled to carry out at times?
I don’t know if they’ve struggled. I mean, the defense has played really good football. Obviously, we didn’t put our best foot forward last week, but prior to that they were kind of the rock of the team, you know, really carrying us through some wins. Especially when we turned the ball over, they were getting people stopped. So, I’m not going to let one game dictate, saying ‘oh gosh, what’s wrong with the system?’ I said the other day, I thought the quarterback played extremely well for Notre Dame. I thought we got out of some gaps, both as defensive linemen and linebackers that created some long runs, and they had a couple weeks to be able to prepare and to really put a nice scheme together. Some wrinkles we didn’t see and had to adjust to during games. So, overall, I credit Notre Dame. They played really well. No fault with the system or what Clancy does. He’s exceptional, and he’s got the kids playing really good football.
How do you find balance in trying to get the players to practice at a high tempo, but then resting them also so that their legs aren’t dead?
It’s a fine line. You know, we’re in Week No. 9 right now, but really it’s Week 14 without a break. And I credit the kids. You see their effort out here, and they’re going full speed, and we’re going against each other. And we try to give as many live looks as we can. I showed one clip of how important it is, yesterday in practice, of getting that live pass rush. Here’s Wole on one side, Connor on the other with our starting right tackle left in, left tackle – having to go against him. That’s great pass rush. And then Sam [Darnold] throws a dime to Tyler Vaughns. Those are the things that you want to see in practice. I wish it could be all walkthrough, but you have to be able to go good-on-good, you have to be able to get that full-speed work, and then as myself, I try to back it off a little bit. We’re in the last four games, so we’ve taken the full pads away like we’ve done over the last couple of years. But there’s that fine line that comes. We’ve got some injury bugs going on as we go through these next four games, and we’ll see what we have to do next. But this is where we are now.
Hey there been any discussion amongst the staff about trying to make this offense easier for you guys?
We’ve been doing the same things, guys, basically since we started. It’s the same plays. It’s the same plays that were being run by Matt Leinart – are still run today. It’s been the same system, and we’ve been really good at it. The difference is you’ve got some younger kids that are growing up, and I look at our wide out corps right now, and how they’re excelling I’ve thought over the last couple of weeks. They’re really coming on. We’re trying to help our offensive line out a little bit with some younger kids that are having to play. But it’s not like we’re making up new plays right now. The system has remained the same, and it’s been successful. As we get healthy, and as our youth grows up, it will be back at full force.