USC Football News: Fall Camp, Day 13 Practice Notes (8/18)

Head coach Clay Helton during practice at Howard Jones Field. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)
Head coach Clay Helton during practice at Howard Jones Field. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy) /

The 13th Day of USC football was a muted affair, with all eyes on Friday’s scrimmage before depth chart decisions are made.

USC football has held 17 practices during Fall Camp. There’s just one more to go.

Day 13 of Fall Camp was all about Day 14. With the Trojans in shirts and shorts for a short practice at Howard Jones Field, all attention was on getting ready for the Friday’s scrimmage, which will help shape the many depth chart decisions that will be made this weekend.

“I’ve got one more opportunity to watch the kids tomorrow,” head coach Clay Helton said after practice Thursday. “Every night that’s what I do up in my office is go back and watch every snap of each kid…This last scrimmage is going to help me solidify things and then make a decision that will benefit our football team.”

Unsurprisingly, the head coach was asked about his feelings on the quarterback battle, but he was quick to insist that there is more than one competition that needs settling on Friday.

Along with the quarterbacks, USC will make big decisions at guard, linebacker, safety and along the defensive line.

Regardless of the depth chart, Helton stressed that even though battles may be decided on paper, the “loser” of each competition must keep their focus on preparation.

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“I think no matter any position, you’re one snap away from being the starter. It doesn’t matter if you’re a safety, a linebacker, a quarterback, a center, a second team center, a third team center, a fourth team center,” Helton said, alluding to USC’s injury crisis at center last year which saw fourth-string center Nico Falah thrust into the starting role.

“Thank goodness [Falah] prepared each and every week like ‘I’ve gotta go into the game’ because you may look up and you’re in the UCLA game in the fourth quarter trying to win the Pac-12 South Championship,” said Helton.

It’s that kind of preparation that Helton is looking for from each and every Trojan. He wants to see how his players respond to their final opportunity on the field on Friday and then he wants to see them to continue to compete, job won or lost.

But most of all, Helton is ready to be done with depth chart concerns, with real action coming down the line.

“I’m looking forward to moving on to Alabama come Sunday.”

Three Stars of the Day

  1. Matt Lopes, Reuben Peters and James Toland IV:  The three walk-ons were awarded scholarships for 2016, Helton announced after practice.

From the Notebook

  • Injury Update:
    • Defensive lineman Rasheem Green remains out with a knee contusion. Helton described it as day-to-day.
    • Offensive lineman Damien Mama was held out because of the ankle he re-tweaked on Wednesday.
    • Defensive lineman Noah Jefferson got in for some team reps as continues his return from the back injury that kept him out most of camp.
    • Safety Ykili Ross and center Cole Smith were back from the stomach bug.
    • Safety Marvell Tell is inching closer to a full return from his hamstring problem but remained out Thursday.
    • Cornerback Isaiah Langley and safety John Plattenburg remain out with concussions.
    • Defensive lineman Kevin Scott had a PRP injection on his hamstring but it will take a week for him to return.
    • Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster “only knows one speed” so he is being monitored and pulled back based on the miles he is putting on his body.
  • The defense got the better of the offense during the first sequence of 7-on-7. Cornerback Jonathan Lockett broke up a Max Browne pass intended for receiver Steven Mitchell, then one play later linebacker Osa Masina disrupted a pass to tight end Taylor McNamara.
  • Linebacker John Houston deflected a pass Sam Darnold directed towards tight end Cary Angeline.
  • Receiver Jalen Greene made a catch on a Darnold pass sliding on the ground over the middle.
  • Darnold made a nice throw during 7-on-7, dropping in a pass over the outstretched arms of John Houston to Jalen Greene for a long gain running down the sideline.
  • A bad snap early in the 11-on-11 period had Darnold scrambling to recover. Though the play was whistled dead, the quarterback was able to get off a throw to DeQuan Hampton.
  • Darnold found freshman receiver Michael Pittman over the top for a touchdown during the 11-on-11 period.
  • Browne hit tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe for a long completion on the sideline.
  • Receiver Steven Mitchell tipped another ball into a dangerous spot, though now defender was quick enough to grab the interception. On the next play he made up for it when Browne went right back to him for a pass over the middle which put the offense on the goal line.
  • Browne hit Smith-Schuster at the right pylon for a touchdown on the next play.
  • Defensive end Uchenna Nwosu dropped running back Aca’Cedric Ware for a loss on a run going left.
  • Safety Leon McQuay defended a Darnold attempt to Smith-Schuster in the corner of the endzone.