USC Football Spring Camp Notes: Focus On Lifting the Second Team

Receiver Tyler Vaughns at USC football practice on Howard Jones Field. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)
Receiver Tyler Vaughns at USC football practice on Howard Jones Field. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy) /

Practice No. 7 for USC football spring camp 2017 focused on lifting the level of the second team. Here’s news and notes from Howard Jones Field.

It was another bright and sunny day at Howard Jones Field as USC football spring camp continued in front of a crowd of onlookers. On Tuesday, it was all about the twos.

“I challenged our offensive and defensive staff in this practice and for the rest of camp that one of the things that we truly have to focus on is improving our twos,” head coach Clay Helton said after practice.

The Trojans are in a “pretty good situation” with the first team, Helton said. After seven days of practice this spring, that’s been apparent with a fairly settled line up.

Now, Helton wants to give more time for the second team to grow.

Much of the second team includes young players who haven’t had opportunities to play for the Trojans just yet. Those were the ones Helton was most complimentary of on Tuesday, singling out the cast of wide receivers for their performance in practice.

“It was probably our best practice of spring thus far, especially at the receiver position,” Helton said. “I thought the kids made some really nice plays.”

News and Notes

There was a shake up on the offensive line as Chris Brown and Roy Hemsley swapped places. Brown worked at right tackle while Hemsley slid over to left guard.

With linebacker Cameron Smith and running back Ronald Jones II sitting out, Jordan Iosefa, Vavae Malepeai.

Center Nico Falah once again missed out, so Cole Smith continued to work with the first team.

Linebacker Porter Gustin was back in action after missing the first two weeks of camp while recovering from hand surgery.

Isaiah Langley remains ahead of Jack Jones in the cornerback pecking order.

Marlon Tuipulotu worked with the first team at defensive tackle ahead of Josh Fatu for the second practice.

Receiver Jalen Greene made a leaping grab over Langley, falling just short of the endzone during 11-on-11 work. Sam Darnold threw the long pass.

Malepeai was, in the words of running backs coach Deland McCullough, “gashing the defense” throughout practice. The redshirt freshman made several tough runs up the middle during the team period.

The offense beat the defense on a double pass from Darnold to Greene, who lobbed it downfield for Michael Pittman. The pass was just a tad short, causing Pittman to come back for it. He appeared to trip up just short of the goal line. You’d need replay review to determine if it was a touchdown.

Nickelback Jamel Cook nearly had another interception but the play was technically blown dead before he caught Matt Fink’s errant pass.

Running back James Toland IV had a strong run up the middle during 11-on-11 with the twos.

Langley blocked a kick during field goal drills, but took the brunt of the punishment as he collided with the kicker.

Receiver Velus Jones leaped over safety Marvell Tell for a touchdown from Darnold during the 7-on-7 red zone period.

Daniel Imatorbhebhe (in a yellow non-contact jersey) made the kind of diving catch which has become his signature for a touchdown from Darnold during the same period.

Fink threw touchdowns to Jackson Boyer, Imatorbhebhe and Pittman.

Quarterback Jack Sears and receiver Tyler Vaughns supplied one of the highlights of practice during the red zone period. Sears put one up in the corner of the endzone and Vaughns went up higher than a crowd of defenders to complete the catch.

Tell broke up a long Darnold pass intended for Deontay Burnett during 11-on-11.

Cornerback Iman Marshall batted another Darnold shot intended for Pittman.

The Marshall-Pittman battle continued with Darnold finding the receiver, who ran headlong into Marshall but managed to get to the marker. He signaled the first down from the ground.

Linebacker Grant Moore nearly had a pick six on Fink, but the pass hit his chest and bounced away.

Fink showed off some athleticism by scrambling up the middle, cutting right and beating the defense for a long run, which probably would have been a touchdown if not blown dead.

Fink and center Richie Wenzel seemed to have some snap issues. Fink fumbled one snap and had to throw the ball away because of another low one.

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Vaughns made a nice outstretched catch over the middle from Fink before being popped by safety CJ Pollard. He held onto the ball despite the hit.

When Fink took off running again during 11-on-11, Cook took the opportunity to knock him out of bounds, through the crowd of bodies on the sideline. It probably would have resulted in a flag during a live game, but Fink jumped back to his feet right away without complaint.

The Trojans finished practice with a two-minute drill, including a leaping Greene catch for a first down on the sideline. Darnold found the receiver after avoiding pressure from Gustin and linebacker Uchenna Nwosu.

Tuipulotu rushed the quarterback but he dumped the ball off to Malepeai, who spun away from Houston for a nice gain.

The offense’s biggest chunk of offense came via Pittman, who caught a ball over the middle and had to be caught from behind by Marshall.

To finish off the drill, Darnold centered the ball for a field goal — one they ultimately didn’t kick because kickers had already finished for the day.