USC Football Spring Camp Notes: Defense Wins the Day (3/30)

Defensive backs during USC Football practice at Howard Jones Field. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy)
Defensive backs during USC Football practice at Howard Jones Field. (Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy) /

The eighth practice of USC football spring camp went to the defense, with a dominant performance which had head coach Clay Helton torn.

In football, where there are winners, there are also losers on the other side, which can make for complicated emotions for a head coach during spring camp.

USC football’s eighth practice of the spring brought that to the forefront.

“I thought by far it was a dominant practice by the defense, starting from team run and it really carried over into some situational football,” Helton said.

The Trojans finished up practice with a situational period reminiscent of the 2017 Rose Bowl, where the offense held the lead and needed to run out the clock while the defense needed a stop to put their offense back on the field.

“Defense won both times.”

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That was great news for defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Not so much for the offense.

“As happy as you are with that, you’ve got to look at the other side,” Helton said, noting that the offense had their best practice of spring on Tuesday. It just didn’t carry over. “We’ve got to get better than what we did today.”

News and Notes

Linebacker Cameron Smith and wide receiver Keyshawn “Pie” Young remained out of action while running back Ronald Jones and tight ends Daniel Imatorbhebhe and Tyler Petite were in pads but limited

Running back Dominic Davis was back in full contact.

Defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow returned to action, but he will continue to be held out of live play.

Offensive lineman Andrew Voorhees will get some time at guard over the coming weeks, Helton announced. The early enrollee has been working at tackle, but the Trojans have high hopes about his versatility as he keeps on growing.

During 11-on-11, Sam Darnold found receiver Velus Jones, who shook off a big hit attempt from Marvell Tell to take off for a touchdown.

Nickelback Jamel Cook blocked two kicks consecutively during field goal work.

Cornerback Jack Jones nearly had an interception on a floated ball to Jalen Greene during one-on-ones with the receivers, but the ball bounced off his hands.

Receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe caught a touchdown against cornerback Iman Marshall in the same period, bobbling the pass from Jack Sears but ultimately tucking it in.

Marshall got the better of receiver Michael Pittman during 7-on-7, first disrupting a short pass from Darnold intended for the receiver. Later, Pittman appeared to make a catch in the flat, but he dropped it, or fumbled it out of bounds with Marshall closing down.

Darnold found receiver Jalen Greene for a long gain over the middle during 7-on-7.

Jones punched a ball out of Imatorbhebhe’s hands in the same period.

Another day, another near interception for Cook, who tipped a Matt Fink pass over the middle, but couldn’t complete the turnover.

Darnold hit Jones in the flat for a nice gain as the receiver beat his defender and turned up field.

When cornerback Isaiah Langley disrupted a Darnold pass intended for Greene, the ball hung up int he air and got bounced around as both receiver and defensive backs hoped to make an improbable catch. None did.

Safety Chris Hawkins intercepted Sears on a slant.

Sears threw another interception a short while later, though it wasn’t as much his fault. The young quarterback hit Jackson Boyer in the chest and the ball dropped into the waiting arms of linebacker Olajuwon Tucker.

During the red zone 11-on-11 period, Darnold found Vavae Malepeai for a nice gainer as the running back juked Tell.

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A scrambling Darnold tossed a touchdown to Pittman from about 10 yards out. The receiver made the diving catch out of bounds to the delight of his teammates.

The defense got revenge later when safety Matt Lopes intercepted Fink in the endzone.

A Darnold pass to Malepeai in the flat might have been a touchdown in live play, though it didn’t count during practice. Malepeai and Marshall collided at the goal line.

Defensive lineman Rasheem Green mauled his man to bring down Malepeai in the backfield during the four-minute situational period at the end of practice. He suffered a banged up hand as a result, but said after practice he was good to go back in.

Hawkins capped the defense’s win in that period by sacking Darnold.

Davis made a good impression on his first day back, juking safety Ykili Ross to avoid being taken down in the backfield when the second team got their chance in the situational period.