USC Football News: First Fall Scrimmage Notes (8/17)


The first scrimmage of the 2015 USC football season took place on Monday night at Howard Jones Field, with the offense seemingly behind the defense.

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Heisman Trophy candidate Cody Kessler was unofficially 19 for 29 with three touchdowns and three interceptions, in what was a rather mediocre outing for the passing game.

Kessler’s best drive of the day was his second, in which he was 4-for-4, capped off with a pretty fade pass for a touchdown to JuJu Smith.

From then on out, it was all about the defense. The Trojans had six sacks, including a strong showing from the second and third team defenses over the second team offensive line, whom really struggled.

Overall, head coach Steve Sarkisian said it was a first scrimmage that seemed typical, with more than a handful of penalties and overall sloppiness offensively.

Even still, he was pleased to see the play of the defense, which got good performances out of young players like Iman Marshall, Porter Gustin, Marvell Tell and Jonathan Lockett.

Three Stars of the Day

  1. Iman Marshall: Marshall had a big day, seeing plenty of time with the first team. He almost intercepted Cody Kessler early then made it official with what should have been a pick six. After jumping the route and nabbing the pass, he fumbled the ball on his way to the endzone — perhaps celebrating too early. Still he was physical, aggressive and effective in coverage throughout the scrimmage.
  2. Steven Mitchell: Mitchell was not targeted as much as other receivers, but he made a splash nearly every time he caught the ball. He had four catches and continued to display nice moves juking away from defenders and added a short touchdown on a screen — though it was called back for illegal formation — and a nifty punt return.
  3. Porter Gustin: The freshman linebacker was a regular figure with the ones. He proved a force in the pass rush, getting around the edge on multiple occasions. Logging a sack and generally putting pressure on the quarterbacks, Gustin looked like a natural on the outside.

From the Notebook

  • Christian Tober was an honorable mention star of the game. The walk-on receiver had a long touchdown reception to go along with a couple other catches. He also returned a kick off almost to midfield.
  • With Chad Wheeler held out, Viane Talamaivao out injured and Toa Lobendahn sticking to left tackle, Chris Brown saw nearly all the reps at right guard for the first team.
  • Ronald Jones II was given a fair share of the first team reps at running back and made the most of them. He was tied with Justin Davis with a team-high eight carries and ripped off a couple nice runs. Overall, he was probably the most impressive of the running backs on the night.
  • Tre Madden had three carries and a pair of catches but didn’t see much action.
  • Cody Kessler and the quarterbacks in general struggled. Kessler threw three interceptions and probably could have been burned a couple other times by Marshall and Adoree’ Jackson.
  • Deontay Burnett showed off some moves in space at one point, breaking free from a would-be tackler, spinning, then weaving through the defense for an extra ten yards. However, he also dropped a bomb from Sam Darnold.
  • Speaking of Darnold, the freshman quarterback scored a touchdown on a designed quarterback keeper. He was 9 for 19 with a touchdown pass on a touch pass to tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe. He struggled struggled early on, without much help from his third string offensive line, but put together one of the best drives of the night late in the fourth quarter.
  • Jonathan Lockett continued his strong fall with an interception off a deflection by Olajuwon Tucker. He and Marshall benefited from Kevon Seymour sitting out.
  • Sarkisian told the media after practice that linebacker Lamar Dawson missed the scrimmage with ‘a couple of cracked ribs’. He also said Cam Smith was not 100 percent, though he had time with the first team defense.
  • Alex Wood handled all kickoffs and was perfect on PATs, with Matt Boermeester not seeing any time.
  • USC added two walk-on players to the roster for numbers, quarterback Michael Bowman and kicker Wyatt Schmidt, who attempted multiple kicks from long range during a stoppage.
  • Fans of #Pac12Refs would have loved the scrimmage. There was no shortage of flags, especially on the offensive line which was tagged for false starts and holds throughout.

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