USC Football Spring Camp Notes: QBs, Tyler Vaughns Stand Out (4/1)

Mar 7, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws a pass during spring practice at Howard Jones Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 7, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws a pass during spring practice at Howard Jones Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

USC football’s ninth practice of spring camp included a stand out day for receiver Tyler Vaughns and some pressure situations on special teams.

There wasn’t much for Clay Helton to praise from his offense after Thursday’s practice, but they bounced back with a performance worthy of kudos from the USC football head coach.

“What stood out to me really was the quarterback play. I thought they really stepped up today in all phases,” Helton said.

Each one of USC’s three quarterbacks, Sam Darnold, Matt Fink and Jack Sears, had moments to shine on Saturday. But they weren’t the only ones to draw the coach’s eye.

“It was great to see Tyler Vaughns have a stellar day, by far his best practice,” Helton said. “He made big plays all over the field.”

Helton also took the opportunity to test his projected starter at kicker by capping each drive of the red zone period with a field goal.

Brown hit all four attempts, including a pivotal final kick under pressure, with both sidelines pressed close and making noise to simulate game conditions.

“Brown had the opportunity to either end practice or keep it going with that last field goal,” Helton said. “He made a lot of players happy.”

News and Notes

  • Linebacker Cameron Smith, offensive lineman Viane Talamaivao and cornerback Isaiah Langley sat out practice. Tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe had a yellow non-contact jersey for parts of the day.
  • Running back Ronald Jones II was limited.
  • With linebacker Tayler Katoa out with an ACL injury, Olajuwon Tucker worked on the inside with the second team.
  • Defensive lineman Marlon Tuipulotu spent more time with the second team while Josh Fatu and Malik Dorton stepped in next to Rasheem Green when the Trojans used a three-man front.
  • Offensive lineman Clayton Johnston worked with the first team at left tackle for parts of practice with Chuma Edoga filling in on the second team.
  • Midyear enrollee offensive lineman Andrew Voorhees got time with the ones at right guard.
  • Because of injuries, the Trojans didn’t scrimmage fully, going through a series of “thud” periods instead of live tackling.
  • There was a sizable crowd on hand, with 400 coaches on campus for the Nike Coaching Clinic.

11-on-11 Highlights:

  • Darnold had a pass tipped but by a blitzer, only for receiver Michael Pittman to run under it and carry it for a gain.
  • Marvell Tell broke up a Darnold pass intended for tight end Tyler Petite.
  • Fink hit Vaughns for a long gain which included a pass interference flag against cornerback Yoofi Quansah.
  • Petite took a star turn when the first team returned to the field, catching a pass over the middle before being popped by Marvell Tell. A play later, he got free down field and caught a touchdown from Darnold.
  • Darnold had some miscommunication with Pittman on a deep attempt. The receiver cut inside while the ball floated outside, incomplete.
  • A handoff to running back Vavae Malepeai ended with an extracurricular hit by defensive lineman Josh Fatu, who appeared to have a different interpretation of “thud.”
  • Sears found Vaughns a couple of times on the outside during his drive before floating a ball up for Josh Imatorbhebhe, who made the touchdown catch over cornerback Jalen Jones.

Red Zone 7-on-7 Highlights:

  • Darnold hit Deontay Burnett over the middle for scores on consecutive plays, including a diving catch by the receiver on the second.
  • Another attempt over the middle was tipped up, however, and intercepted by safety Matt Lopes.
  • Sears found tight end Cary Angeline up the middle for a touchdown.

Red Zone 11-on-11 Highlights:

Cornerback Jack Jones gave Pittman an earful after disrupting a deep pass attempt in the end zone.

Malepeai was again the victim of a late hit when a defensive lineman up-ended the running back. He popped up and threw the ball at the offending player as flags flew for both sides.

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Darnold executed a Brett Favre-esque side arm throw through a gap in the middle to Angeline just short of the goal line.

Fink fumbled a snap, opening the door for linebacker Grant Moore to get the sack.

Moore and linebacker Connor Murphy sandwiched running back James Toland for a tackle for loss on a pitch.

On the next play, Moore broke through again to sack Fink.

Working with the first team offense, Fink converted a third and short to Petite.

Linebacker Porter Gustin got through for a sack of Fink as well.

Moore logged his third sack of the practice against Sears on the next drive.

Sears came back and found Vaughns in the endzone for a touchdown. The receiver made a tough contested catch over Quansah.