USC vs Stanford Practice Notes: Two QBs Will Be Feature of Offense

Quarterbacks Max Browne and Sam Darnold during practice at Howard Jones Field. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)
Quarterbacks Max Browne and Sam Darnold during practice at Howard Jones Field. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy) /

Clay Helton indicated both Max Browne and Sam Darnold will continue to feature in the Trojan offense in 2016. Here’s notes from Tuesday practice for USC vs Stanford week.

Max Browne remains USC’s undisputed No. 1 quarterback, but expect to see more of Sam Darnold as he was used against Utah State.

Head coach Clay Helton indicated after Tuesday’s USC vs Stanford game week practice that both quarterback would continue to be a feature of the Trojan offense in 2016.

“I think that’s going to be all year,” said Helton, pointing to USC’s red zone success in the first half using Darnold inside the 15 yard line. “One, [Darnold’s] ability to go in progresses him [as a quarterback] but, two, he’s a weapon and we’re going to use every weapon possible on this team to be able to win football games.”

The head coach believes USC can manage both players, getting the best of both worlds by relying on Browne as the primary passer while giving Darnold meaningful reps to make him a more effective back up and utilizing his running ability in the red zone.

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Could that potentially disrupt the flow of both quarterbacks? Helton doesn’t think so.

“Overall I felt the fluidity [against Utah State] and I thought both kids grew in that game,” Helton said, citing Browne’s exceptional completion percentage despite a couple throws he’d want back, including an interception and a couple long pass misses.

Browne and the entire team have had two weeks to settle into the new season ahead of Stanford, which Helton sees as an asset, compared to Stanford’s early bye week.

“To go to Alabama and play so poorly and then come to Utah State and play good, not great. There’s still things to clean up,” Helton said. “As a head coach, you want to see that progression of improving from week to week so we needed [both games].”

In other words, Stanford can keep their bye week.

From the Notebook

  • Injury Update:
    • Offensive tackle Zach Banner missed practice due to sickness. Chuma Edoga stepped in at right tackle in his place.
    • Safety Marvell Tell went no contact through practice and will be checked by doctors again before being full cleared from concussion protocol. He had no symptoms on Monday.
    • Defensive lineman Noah Jefferson’s shoulder is troubling him. That problem plus illness have him at 50-50 to play versus Stanford, but Helton indicated he will likely have to sit out.
    • Running back Ronald Jones, who is dealing with rib and thigh bruises, was limited on Tuesday but should be available on Saturday.
    • Safety John Plattenburg remained out of pads, but was on hand to watch practice as was running back Vavae Malepeai.
    • Safety Jamel Cook worked with trainers as he progresses into full contact.
    • Linebackers Osa Masina and Don Hill have been suspended from team activities.
  • Lineman Khaliel Rodgers spent the day on offense as the second-team center for the first time since switching to the defensive line over the summer.
  • Scouts from the Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts were on hand.
  • Receiver Velus Jones doubled as Christian McCaffrey for the scout team.
  • Cornerback Isaiah Langely blocked a kick, but when he went to scoop it up he tripped himself up.
  • Darnold found Jalen Greene downfield for a big gain, with the receiver out jumping cornerback Jack Jones.
  • Tight end Tyler Petite dropped a long pass from Darnold but later caught a deep sideline pass from Browne against the service team and then made it up to Darnold with another long reception.
  • Cornerback Jonathan Lockett elicited cheers from his teammates when he broke up a pass intended for Darreus Rogers.
  • Browne hit Isaac Whitney for a chunk of yardage down the sideline against the service team.
  • Practice ended with Darnold finding tight end Cary Angeline over the deep middle. The freshman bounced off two tacklers and into the endzone.