USC Football News: Fall Camp, Day 4 Practice Notes (8/7)

USC offensive linemen during practice at Howard Jones Field. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)
USC offensive linemen during practice at Howard Jones Field. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy) /

USC football fall camp continued Sunday with the fourth day of practices making redzone offense and defense the priority.

Day 4 of USC football fall camp put the focus on redzone offense and defense, with the head coach Clay Helton challenging both sides of his team to make the most of those game-changing moments.

“Every four times you’re down there in the 20 you need to get three scores,” said Helton after practice Sunday. “That’s what we always shoot for. Touchdowns, not field goals.”

For the defense that involves getting getting stops, forcing turnovers and limiting teams to field goals.

Helton referenced specific examples in seasons past when those successes had great impact, including Chris Hawkins’ scoop-and-score against ASU last year and John Plattenburg’s redzone interception against Arizona two years ago.

So far, the head coach is pleased with what he sees from the defensive side of the ball.

“I really liked how the defense performed. When we got down there [in the redzone] they had an attitude about themselves and really it spoke volumes for where they’re at right now,” Helton said. “From day one of spring to right now where we’re at, I told them it’s light years.”

With the defense clicking so well early on in camp, Helton also noted a strong competitive atmosphere around USC.

More from Reign of Troy

And it’s not just needing to pull JuJu Smith-Schuster back from the fray when the offense and defense go at it. Helton says that he sees the competitiveness across position battles as well, from Max Browne and Sam Darnold to Chris Brown and Damien Mama.

The heat will really be on Monday at the Coliseum, when the Trojans get in full pads for the first time.

USC’s new crop of young players will get their first chance to play under the lights at the Coliseum.

“It’s a different environment when you step in there and see that beautiful stadium,” Helton said.

More importantly for USC and Helton, there can be a greater emphasis on tackling. That means teaching the art and developing the skill, but it’s also the first chance the coaches will get to see just how far along the Trojan run offense and run defense are at this stage.

For the first time, there will be no whistles ending the play at a touch. Both offense and defense will have the chance to play through contact and see who comes out on top.

“Now you’re going to get to see exactly where you are after five days of good work in your run game.”

Three Stars of the Day

  1. Marvell Tell: The safety came up big in the redzone period, swatting away two passes over the middle first in 7-on-7, then against fellow No. 7 Steven Mitchell during 11-on-11.
  2. Vavae Malepeai: The freshman running back has yet to take his foot off the gas, proving a capable runner inside the tackles with the ability to catch passes in the flat.
  3. The Quarterbacks: After a ho-hum outing on Saturday, both quarterbacks responded with much more efficient performances on Sunday.

From the Notebook

  • Injury Update:
    • Running back Justin Davis was held out for much of practice as he deals with slight knocks to his hip and knee.
    • JuJu Smith-Schuster is still being limited as the staff gives his sprained toe time to heal.
    • Khaliel Rodgers sat out as he goes through a concussion protocol.
    • Chris Hawkins sat out with a hamstring.
  • Helton praised the competition between Chris Brown and Damien Mama. Brown has taking the majority of the first team reps at left guard thanks to his great spring, but the head coach has noted Mama’s fire in responding to the challenge. Helton relayed how Mama said, “This one’s for you” before one particular play when he smashed the inside linebacker to open a running lane.
  • Helton said Justin Davis “is what he is,” as USC’s best all-around back. He praised Ronald Jones II for the progress he’s made in becoming a more complete back, then said Aca’Cedric Ware is already on his way to being the next Davis. Dominic Davis he described as a fastball and said he’s been impressed by the physical and mental maturity of freshman Vavae Malepeai.
  • Uchenna Nwosu stuffed a Jones run during the 11-on-11 period, but Jones proved to be a more capable pass catcher later when he caught a ball in the flat, slipped, recovered and continued his run.
  • Ware scored a touchdown with an impressive run up the middle. However he also fumbled during 11-on-11.
  • Scouts for the New York Jets were on hand.
  • Cornerabck Iman Marshall blocked a kick.
  • Tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe tipped up a pass on the outside from Max Browne but was able to track it back down for the completion.
  • Tight end Tyler Petite out-leaped Matt Lopes for an impressive grab in 7-on-7.
  • Receiver Michael Pittman caught two Darnold passes at the front corner of the endzone. Steven Mitchell and Darreus Rodgers also caught touchdown passes from Darnold.
  • Browne found Tyler Vaughns for a touchdown on a slant.
  • Adoree’ Jackson showed he might have a future in high jumping as well, climbing a wall to swat away a pass aimed for Isaac Whitney.
  • Stevie Tu’ikolovatu burst in to the backfield to stuff Ware then on the next play Quinton Powell charged off the edge to stop the running back for loss again.