USC Football Spring Camp Notes: Injuries Mean Opportunities For Youth (4/4)

Mar 7, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans players huddle during spring practice at Howard Jones Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 7, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans players huddle during spring practice at Howard Jones Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

USC football spring camp’s 10th practice put the need to develop back ups on display as injuries on the offensive line mount. Here’s notes from Howard Jones Field.

Injuries have been a talking point for much of USC football’s 2017 spring camp and Tuesday was no different as news broke that starting right guard Viane Talamaivao will miss the remainder of camp due to elbow surgery.

“You get late in spring and you have those nicks and bruises that come on,” Helton said.

Right now, USC is missing three potential starters on the offensive line — Nico Falah, Toa Lobendahn and, now Talamaivao.

With Falah dealing with a back problem, Lobendah rehabbing from last year’s ACL injury and Talamaivao undergoing surgery on his partially torn bicep which will keep him out until fall, the Trojans turned to youth in the trenches.

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“It hurts us a little bit offensively when have that kind of experience out, but it’s great opportunity for some young guys to get out there and get extra reps,” said Helton, referencing early enrollee Andrew Voorhees and redshirt sophomore Roy Hemsley.

Voorhees has taken reps with the ones in Talamaivao’s absence while Hemsley has worked at right tackle and left guard on the first team this spring.

It hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing, with the defense imposing their will on the offense at times on Tuesday, but Helton insists this is part of the process.

“You expect to have some growing pains with some young guys, but they’re meaningful reps that are going to hopefully carry over to when their opportunity comes,” Helton said.

News and Notes

  • Linebacker Cameron Smith and running back Ronald Jones II were both back in action after missing last week with injury.
  • With Viane Talamaivao out for spring with a torn bicep, early enrollee Andrew Voorhees stepped into the first team at right guard. He also took second team reps at right tackle.
  • Center Frank Martin struggled with his snapping, causing trouble for quarterbacks Matt Fink and Jack Sears on three plays early in practice.
  • Marlon Tuipulotu and Josh Fatu both worked with the first team at nose tackle.
  • During 11-on-11, linebacker Uchenna Nwosu put pressure on Sam Darnold whose long attempt fell incomplete. Later, the quarterback utilized a double-pump then went long again to Deontay Burnett, who made the catch beyond a leading Jack Jones.
  • Tight ends Cary Angeline and Austin Applebee both dropped passes during 11-on-11.
  • The 1-on-1 period with receivers and defensive backs provided plenty of highlights:
    • Jalen Greene and Michael Pittman started things off well by beating Isaiah Langley and Jack Jones respectively on long streaks.
    • Iman Marshall gave a win to the defense by forcing an incompletion for Josh Imatorbhebhe.
    • Tyler Vaughns made a diving grab after beating Langley to the sideline.
    • Deontay Burnett decleated Chris Hawkins, much to the pleasure of his teammates, and then finished the catch down the middle.
    • Jones got revenge on Pittman by batting a short slant. The ball popped into the air and the cornerback made a valiant effort diving for the interception but the ball hit the ground just beyond his fingers.
    • Marshall successfully defended Greene, but the receiver looked around signalling for a flag.
    • Imatorbhebhe made his coaches happy with a shimmy across the middle to shake Matt Lopes for a completion.
    • Burnett provided the highlight of the period with a one-handed, bobbled grab past Ajene Harris.
    • Pittman tried a one-handed catch of his own, but the overthrown ball landed beyond his reach.
  • The 7-on-7 period continued the tough battles between receivers and DBs:
    • Darnold found Green for a nice gain after Marshall jumped the pass and missed.
    • Marshall turned around two plays later to break up a catch Greene seemed to have grabbed as they went to the ground.
    • Fink found Pittman for a long gain over Jones.
    • Harris made a play which earned him praise from the coaches on the sideline, deflecting a pass intended for Imatorbhebhe.
  • Defense dominated the final 11-on-11 “thud” period featuring work with tempo. Jones had a pick six on Darnold while Porter Gustin sacked Fink.
  • USC focused on situational work, including a period devoted to being “backed up.” The offense started at the one-yard line in a two-minute situation.
    • After a short run and a ball thrown away because of pressure, Darnold made the play on third down by finding Burnett for the first down over the middle.
    • Uchenna Nwosu hit running back Vavae Malepeai for a tackle for loss on the ensuing first down.
    • Following another throw away, Darnold again hit Burnett on third down, but the receiver was short of the first down marker thanks to a tackle from Harris.
    • Fink led the second team offense for the next series. Rolling out, the quarterback tossed one at the first down marker for Imatorbhebhe, but the receiver had the ball go though his hands as he slid to make the catch.
    • On third and nine, Fink went long to Pittman, who went higher than a crowd of defensive backs to make the impressive grab.
    • On his series, Sears targeted Imatorbhebhe on two third down attempts, but Marshall deflected the first and a miscommunication saw the second go incomplete.