USC football practice notes: Sam Darnold has interception trouble (7/31)

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

USC Football’s Day 2 of fall camp took place Monday at Howard Jones Field, and it was a rocky one for star quarterback Sam Darnold.

Growing pains were a theme of USC Football’s second day of fall camp on Monday, as quarterback Sam Darnold tossed three interceptions and the defense dominated the day.

“I don’t get overemotional about it,” head coach Clay Helton said after practice. “I think it’s a great learning example for him to be able to really dive in and get great chemistry with these kids.”

Darnold’s missteps were linked back to chemistry with a new look wide receiver corps by both Helton and his brother, Tyson, USC’s quarterbacks coach.

Tyson indicated that one part of the issue is Darnold testing his receivers, another part is just taking risks a step too far and needing to reel it back a little bit.

Helton said that’s a side of Darnold’s game they’re willing to live with, especially during camp when problems can be corrected.

“The one thing that he has is his sense of timing and letting the ball go,” Helton said. “You never want to handcuff that guy. He’s got great anticipatory skills. If he sees it and believes in it, let it go, make a full speed decision and we’ll live with the result.”

News and Notes

  • All told, USC’s quarterbacks threw four interceptions on the day. While that’s an obvious concern for the offense, Tyson Helton also saw it as a bright outing from the defense. Iman Marshall, Cameron Smith and Chris Hawkins each intercepted Darnold while Harris picked off Jack Sears, all four displaying their ability to read the quarterback and get to he ball before the receiver.
    • Marshall’s interception was on a ball Darnold floated too far inside, intended for Jalen Greene.
    • Smith grabbed his interception in a familiar way, jumping a slant route over the middle.
    • Hawkins made his pick further down field, getting under an overthrown attempt.
  • The defensive front also contributed to the victory on that side of the ball with Kenny Bigelow tipping a Jack Sears attempt at the line of scrimmage and Jay Tufele and Juliano Falaniko logging sacks on Matt Fink and Sears during 11-on-11.
  • It wasn’t all bad for the offense. Receiver Jalen Greene made a diving catch in the back of the end zone on a deep throw by Fink during 11-on-11. Later, he helped Darnold make up for an earlier interception on a similar play by catching Darnold’s floated pass to a spot on the sideline.

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  • Darnold also made up for his earlier mistakes with one of his signature playmaking moments during 11-on-11. Rolling to the right with Uchenna Nwosu hot in pursuit, Darnold tossed one up for Michael Pittman, who went high and came back down tapping his toes on the sideline for an NFL completion.
  • Freshman tight end Erik Krommenhoek was an active pass catcher on Day 1 and that continued on Day 2 as Sears found him up the seam for a long TD during the team run.
  • Receiver Velus Jones showed off his shiftiness and speed with a nifty catch and run up the sidelines during 11-on-11.
  • Receivers Randal Grimes and Keyshawn “Pie” Young had spectacular almost-catches on back-to-back attempts by Fink. The former attempted a diving, one-handed catch on a ball that was placed too far wide. The latter tried to go up high over safety Bubba Bolden on a ball floated into the middle of the secondary. He got his hands on it but the safety was able to knock the ball loose before he could complete the catch.

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  • Receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe was able to complete an impressive grab while twisting and sliding to the ground.
  • Krommenhoek and Young also dropped consecutive passes by Sears.
  • Blind longsnapper Jake Olson completed a couple of snaps during the field goal period to the delight of coaches and teammates. After practice, Helton indicated that he has talked to USC’s medical staff about getting Olson into a game, though he still can’t say when that could happen.