USC Football News: Fall Camp, Day 5 Practice Notes (8/8)

Mar 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; A general view prior to the game between Mexico and Ecuador at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; A general view prior to the game between Mexico and Ecuador at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

USC football got back in the Coliseum for Fall Camp practice No. 5 on Monday night, with an emphasis on tackling technique and physicality.

There’s a fine line between taking the time to teach tackling right and being stupid.

That’s what USC football head coach Clay Helton said Monday after the Trojans practiced at the Coliseum for the first time in full pads.

The tackling drills USC ran during Day 5 always carry a risk of injury but can yield great rewards.

Each unit lined up across from each other in groups down the field. The offensive players ran at the defense and tried to get by unscathed. The defensive players made it their mission to bring their teammates to the ground.

“You hold your breath as a coach,” said Helton, acknowledging the danger but also preaching the necessity.

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“You’ve got to push through and that’s what we did whether it was our individual drills or whether it was the scrimmage at the end,” Helton continued. “You have to do that and you say a prayer at night and hopefully you come out good and today we came out good.”

Helton is right, the Trojans came out of the day of tackling largely unscathed.

There is a laundry list of players who are dealing with knocks after the first week of practice, but few of those were casualties of live tackling on Monday.

Of course, the one who came out worse for wear was perhaps USC’s most important player.

Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster dislocated his pinky and had to come of the field, howling in frustration. The finger needed to be popped back in on the sideline.

Thankfully for USC, that doesn’t appear to be a particularly serious injury for the star man. But it was a moment that certainly made Helton hold his breath.

Three Stars of the Day

  1. Ronald Jones: The sophomore running back enjoyed most of the first team carries while Justin Davis is limited. He made the most of it by hitting the hole hard for moderate gains while also displaying improved pass catching ability out of the backfield.
  2. Iman Marshall: The sophomore cornerback intercepted Max Browne and swatted away a pass intended for JuJu Smith-Schuster during 7-on-7.
  3. Deontay Burnett: Another sophomore completes the trio. The receiver came down hard on the ball while trying to make a catch and was tended to by trainers. However, he was able to get up and finish practice, catching two touchdowns from Sam Darnold during the 7-on-7 red zone period.

From the Notebook

  • Injury Update:
    • Running back Vavae Malepeai suffered a shoulder stinger and was held out as a precaution.
    • Safety John Plattenburg is being treated for concussion-like symptoms.
    • Defensive lineman Rasheem Green has an elbow bruise.
    • Offensive lineman Chad Wheeler is dealing with plantar fasciitis and sat out.
    • Cornerback-receiver Keyshawn Young sat out with his shoulder in a sling.
    • Safety Jamel Cook sat out as he recovers from his offseason foot injury.
    • Defensive lineman Noah Jefferson had an MRI on his back and continued to sit out.
    • Cornerback Chris Hawkins remained out with a hamstring.
    • Running back Justin Davis is still limited by a knee and hip concern.
    • Defensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers has yet to clear the concussion protocol.
  • Pac-12 refs were on hand at the Coliseum. Helton said he wanted to be able to teach his players the reality of flags early. And there was no shortage of flags.
  • “It’s like caging a damn lion,” Helton said of trying to limit Cameron Smith’s participation. He also noted he had to hide Smith-Schuster’s helmet on Sunday to stop him from going back int.
  • During the 7-on-7 period, Max Browne bounced back from his interception to throw scores to Tyler Petite, one-handed in the back of the endzone, Steven Mitchell, and Daniel Imatorbhebhe.
  • Darnold hit DeQuan Hampton for a score as well.
  • USC’s starting offense to begin the live play period: Quarterback Max Browne, running back Ronald Jones II, receivers Darreus Rogers, Steven Mitchell and JuJu Smith-Schuster, tight end Taylor McNamara, left tackle Zach Banner, left guard Damien Mama, center Toa Lobendahn, right guard Viane Talamaivaoe and right tackle Chuma Edoga.
  • USC’s starting defense to begin the live play period: Safeties Marvell Tell and Ykili Ross, cornerbacks Adoree’ Jackson and Iman Marshall, linebackers Quinton Powell and Michael Hutchings, defensive ends Porter Gustin and Uchenna Nwosu, defensive tackles Rasheem Green and Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, with nickleback Leon McQuay or defensive tackle Malik Dorton.
  • Defensive tackle Josh Fatu had a tackle for loss on Ced Ware. McQuay and Nwosu smothered Jones in the backfield. Jackson stopped Ware short on third down at the seven. And the entire defensive front stuffed Ware up the middle on another conversion attempt.
  • In 11-on-11, Darnold converted consecutive third downs, first with a pass to Isaac Whitney, then to Burnett. Later he showed off his wheels on a misdirection, sending the defense away with a fake pitch then running up the middle for a long gain.
  • Browne then manufactured a touchdown drive with Smith-Schuster off injured, hitting Whitney, them Hampton and finally Daniel Imatorbhebhe for a touchdown over the middle.
  • Helton praised both quarterbacks for the way the offense flowed during the live period. Both made use of all their weapons, from receivers to tight ends to running backs.
  • Jack Jones had an impressive open field tackle on James Toland down by the goal line.
  • On four attempts from the ten yard line, the defense was able to stop the offense three times, something Helton said they couldn’t manage during spring camp when the offense ran power. He was very pleased about that.