USC Football News: Fall Camp Opens With Improved Depth


Steve Sarkisian was pleased with the way the USC football fall camp opened Saturday night, crediting a general sense of improved depth with adding a layer of energy and competition to practice.

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“The energy on the field today, the competitiveness on the field was probably the best that we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Sarkisian said.

The head coach noted that the quality of USC’s depth going into the 2015 season has already yielded results on the field by injecting extra competition across the board.

“There’s a little different feel when you know the guy behind you, if you don’t perform, might be better than you.”

A major part of that phenomenon was the arrival of USC’s newest freshman class, who showed up on day one ready to prove themselves.

Sarkisian praised the catch radius of tight end Tyler Petite and the burst of running backs Ronald Jones and Dominic Davis.

New quarterback Sam Darnold also received a pat on the back from Sarkisian for the effective way he performed on his first day.

The return of several injured players also boosted the Trojans.

Jabari Ruffin was active at linebacker, Sarkisian said, while Lamar Dawson has picked up where he left off during his spring revival.

Sarkisian was also happy to welcome back big bodies on the defensive line like Kenny Bigelow, Delvon Simmons and Antwaun Woods, who has come back looking normal after surgery on his torn pectoral, according to the head coach.

On the offensive line, even Chad Wheeler was back in action, though tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick remains unavailable.

With 105 participating players at camp this year, Sarkisian had more to work with, but also more to evaluate. He said Saturday was about the big picture. The clean, energetic practice suited him just fine.

“We’ve got a lot to build on. All and all, it was a good day.”

Quick Hits:

  • Sarkisian wants the USC defense to generate more than 30 turnovers this season after nabbing 23 last year. He was happy with production from his defenders who grabbed interceptions, including Porter Gustin and Ykili Ross.
  • Converted quarterback Jalen Greene was one of the more targeted receivers at practice, seeing a bunch of passes in the flat from motion. It looks more and more likely he will fill the Ajene Harris role this season.
  • De’Quan Hampton and Porter Gustin are as big as advertised. Both stood out for their size.
  • Chad Wheeler and Toa Lobendahn split reps with the ones at left tackle while the remaining four spots on the line remained largely the same — Zach Banner, Damien Mama, Max Tuerk and Viane Talamaivao.
  • Freshman Dominic Davis had a couple nice runs on the outside. He showed excellent quickness.
  • Fellow freshman Ronald Jones II looked explosive, even though lack of pads limited running back production.
  • JuJu Smith provided the highlight of the practice when he made a leaping grab over a defender during the finish challenge to give the offense their first point.
  • The defense ultimately won the finish challenge in four. Cody Kessler missed his receivers on the first two plays of the period while he was swallowed up by the pass rush on the final play.

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