Even with a shorthanded roster, the stars were out in the USC Spring Game, as Vavae Malepeai and Tyler Vaughns put together MVP-worthy performances.
With several players sitting out with injuries or as precaution including Deontay Burnett and Porter Gustin, Saturday’s annual USC spring game at the LA Coliseum was a situational affair.
But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t full of standout afternoons and struggles. Let’s look at the studs and duds, starting with the positives.
The Studs from the USC Spring Game:
He didn’t break out a long run or provoke oohs and aahs on every down, but Malepeai was consistently efficient during the spring game. He totaled 36 yards on eight carries, easily USC’s most prolific back on the day.
He ran with purpose between the tackles was able to continually strive for additional yards within tight quarters. Malepeai’s abilities as a combo back gives the Trojans a versatile threat alongside home run-hitting Ronald Jones.
The most coveted freshman on the field, Tuipulotu finished off a superb spring on Saturday by leading the Trojans in tackles and being one of just four players to record a tackle for loss.
Tuipulotu played a key role in USC’s rush defense holding the running backs to a collective 2.9 yards per carry. He got first-team reps on the defensive line and looks to be a strong candidate to win a starting job going into fall camp.
Going into the game, Vaughns was one of a slew of freshmen receivers to watch. He didn’t disappoint, leading the Trojans in receiving yards during the live period, with 48 on three catches.
That includes an impressive touchdown catch in which he beat walk-on cornerback Jalen Jones by reaching over his back to snatch away a potential interception, all while keeping his feet in bounds.
The play of the day went to Jones, a 34-yard reverse off a Malepeai handoff, in which he sprinted down the right sideline and showed off his track speed. It gave a taste of how USC intends to use him, as a playmaking slot man a la Adoree’ Jackson under Steve Sarkisian.
In the passing game, his ability to run a crisp corner route during a Sam Darnold rollout picked up a gain of 21 yards.
The redshirt freshman kicker tasked with maybe being USC’s starter to replace Matt Boermeester, put on a strong showing in his first action in front of a crowd at the Coliseum. He was 5-of-7 on field goals to wrap up the spring game, including nailing a 50-yarder from the right hash that had several yards of clearance.
The spring game concluded with a neatly placed snap from Olson on a 33-yard field goal make by Brown. It was the perfect ending and another touching moment in the inspiring career of a lifelong Trojan.