USC Football News: Second Fall Scrimmage Notes (8/22)


Mar 11, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General view of the line of scrimmage as Southern California Trojans snapper Zach Smith (60) snaps the ball at spring practice at Howard Jones Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve reached the end of the 2015 USC football fall camp. The Trojans broke camp on Saturday afternoon with the second scrimmage of the season, which was once again won by the defense.

RELATED: 50 Greatest Trojans of the Last 50 Years

The offense, though not nearly as sloppy as they were on Monday, were just flat out ineffective. Why? A big reason was the dominating performance by the defense, who were able to establish a strong pass rush and lock up receivers, forcing USC’s quarterbacks to find high-percentage targets with minimal chances of big gains.

After the scrimmage, a rather terse Steve Sarkisian spoke to reporters about the performance, saying that the offense needs to find a way to bounce back after early struggles. That was an issue last season, as the Trojans were unable to make in-game adjustments for whatever reason. Saturday was no different.

When the passing game struggled, USC’s game plan offensively seemed to play right into defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox’s hand, limiting big play chances and containing a running game that primarily featured freshmen.

While fall camp is officially over, Sarkisian said he wishes it wasn’t. The coach said the play has to improve, because they’re just not ready.

Maybe that’s a good thing. USC cannot take Arkansas State lightly in two weeks. Plus, the fact that a defense that struggled late in games last year is taking it to an offense widely considered to be among the best in the country is a good sign overall, considering that side of the ball had the most to prove in camp.

It just doesn’t help Sarkisian’s overall mindset however, as he is for all intents and purposes the acting offensive coordinator.

Let’s delve into the scribbled notes, shall we?

Three Stars of the Day

  1. Dominic Davis: While the offense did not have a banner day by any means, Davis was one was of two players that jumped out as having a huge day. He scored touchdowns three different ways, with a kick return for a score, a pass reception and short touchdown run. He’d have had a fourth, but he dropped a pass downfield despite being wide open. After practice, Sarkisian raved about him, saying, “This scrimmage was about finding out who’s going to play when it’s time to play.” Though he won’t confirm, that’s as good of an assessment as any if you wanted to know if Davis would be redshirting.
  2. Greg Townsend: As a four-star recruit ranked 35th nationally in 2011, Townsend came to USC with a lot of hype. Injuries and setbacks including breakout performances from other players like Leonard Williams and Morgan Breslin haven’t kept him on the field. But this fall camp, and particularly the last week is the best he’s played as a Trojan. Townsend was hands down the best player on the field for much of Saturday’s scrimmage, recording a sack and several big tackles for loss. For a defensive line that has to replace arguably the greatest defensive lineman in school history, that’s huge.
  3. Kevon Seymour: Though he didn’t register an interception, Seymour dominated on Saturday as you’d want your No. 1 cornerback to. He shut down JuJu Smith-Schuster, limiting him to just four catches on the day. He constantly draped all over him and had multiple pass breakups. What makes it notable however, is that just last Saturday, the fear was that Seymour seriously injured his knee. It ultimately ended up being just a tweak, and he was nails in his return on Saturday.
  4. Honorable Mention, Ced Ware: With 16 carries on Saturday, the most of any running back, Aca’Cedric Ware got thrown into the fire. And he thrived, despite the offensive line struggling throughout the day. Ware was able to make quick cuts in tight quarters and evade tacklers, all while finding holes with good vision. For a comparable player, think Silas Redd.

From the Notebook

  • Players who missed the scrimmage due to injury were Claude Pelon, Damien Mama, Justin Davis and Lamar Dawson. Sophomore cornerback Jonathan Lockett left early, with what looked to be a right forearm injury of some sort. The severity is unknown.
  • Quarterback play on Saturday was better than Monday. Though Sarkisian was not pleased, saying it was average at best. Cody Kessler was unofficially 15-for-24 with a pair of short touchdown passes, while Max Browne was unofficially 20-for-27 with a touchdown and an interception. Though those super-unofficial numbers don’t jump off as being ‘average at best’, it was more so that the passing game was ineffective. The defense was limiting receivers after the catch and the primary reads were regularly covered, leading to a lot of check downs.
  • Defensively, USC was on. The secondary was tightening up receivers and the front seven had the quarterbacks under duress routinely. As mentioned, Townsend was a big force for the first team, while Porter Gustin made another impact at rush end. He sacked Cody Kessler in the end zone for a safety.
  • At receiver, No. 2 guy Steve Mitchell was limited, making only one catch. The bulk of the receptions on the second team went to spring game phenom and walk-on slot receiver Christian Tober. By my count, he had nine of Browne’s 20 completed passes.
  • Adoree’ Jackson was the superstar all week in practice but didn’t have a wowing performance in the scrimmage. His biggest highlight was a reception downfield from Kessler on a ball that was behind him, forcing Jackson to reach behind back to haul it in while in midair. He scored a touchdown on the next play, just off the goal line.
  • Turnovers were king on Saturday, but not via interceptions. There was only one of those, with Michael Hutchings picking off Browne and nearly returning it 99 yards for a touchdown before De’Quan Hampton chased him down. Fumbles on the other hand, were an issue for the offense. Tre Madden lost a ball on one of his four carries, while a lateral pass to Jackson was dropped and recovered by the defense. Furthermore, center Khaliel Rodgers had trouble snapping the ball for the second team offense, which led to a lost fumble.
  • Freshman Cameron Smith continues to play a sound and responsible game at inside linebacker, which resulted in him starting with the first team. For the most part, the ones and twos on defense rotated, giving young players like Olajuwon Tucker and Uchenna Nwosu ample playing time against USC’s first team offense.
  • On the offensive line, Viane Talamaivao was playing after a hamstring injury earlier in camp, but the Trojans were without Mama. The first team unit began with Toa Lobendahn, Chris Brown, Max Tuerk, Talamaivao and Zach Banner from left to right, with Banner and fellow right tackle Chuma Edoga alternating between the ones and twos.
  • The kicking competition is looking more and more like it’s Alex Wood’s to lose at this point. He was 3-for-3 in the head-to-head duel with Wyatt Schmidt, who was 2-for-2. During the scrimmage, Wood was 1-for-2 and took the bulk of the PATs. Matt Booermeester got a couple of kicks and made both.
  • Late in practice, USC was working on the 4-Minute drill, designed to kill clock and close out games. The Trojans had trouble with that last year, and struggled in the scrimmage. On the first go of it, the first team offense left a 4th and inches and needed to punt. The second team under Browne tried it and had their drive derailed on a tackle for loss by Nwosu of Dom Davis, which set the offense back a considerable distance. Chris Hawkins also had a big defensive play soon after, nailing Ced Ware in the backfield for a loss.

More from Reign of Troy