USC football practice notes: Defense dominates red zone (8/3)

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

Day 4 of USC Football’s fall camp featured the defense dominating the red zone while Sam Darnold and Deontay Burnett showed off their chemistry.

Thursday marked the fourth day of USC Football’s 2017 fall camp with the focus turning towards the red zone, where the defense left their mark.

After practice on Howard Jones Field, head coach Clay Helton praised his defense for winning three of the four situations in the red zone as Ykili Ross snagged two interceptions on Matt Fink while the defensive front generated a pair of sacks on Jack Sears.

The offense wasn’t without their own victories though. While Sam Darnold continues to work at building his connection with the receiving corps, one relationship is as strong as ever.

“The other thing that was evident is just the chemistry between Deontay Burnett and Sam Darnold in that area,” Helton said. “I thought they were tremendous today.

“Now our challenge as coaches is to rise everybody else up to that production level and that chemistry.”

News and Notes

  • Ronald Jones II continued his strong camp with another standout day, breaking a long touchdown during the team run period and making perhaps the best catch of his life to help Darnold complete a signature improvisational play.
    • The quarterback fumbled the snap to start with, but quickly recovered and lobbed a pass up for his running back streaking down the sideline. Jones made an off-balance catch and then turned up field to complete the score while some on the defensive sideline exclaimed in disbelief, “Was that RoJo?”
  • Linebacker John Houston had an active day as a tackler and his physicality had the defensive sideline cheering when he took on Cary Angeline during the 11-on-11 period. Though clearly out-sized by the 6-foot-7 tight end, Houston sent Angeline flying with a hit after he pulled in a catch from Darnold, much to the delight of his teammates on the other side of the field.

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  • Defensive back Ykili Ross drew the biggest cheers of the day when he picked off Matt Fink twice during the same period.
    • The first interception came via an assist from defensive lineman Christian Rector. The big man tipped the ball at the line of scrimmage and Ross was able to get under it for what would have been a pick six.
    • Later, Fink attempted a long pass down the sideline but Ross made a play on the ball and came down with it.
  • Fink’s day had been going much better up to that point. The redshirt freshman found Michael Pittman for touchdowns on back-to-back throws during the 7-on-7 period.
    • Pittman deserves a ton of credit for the first touchdown, which he completed despite C.J. Pollard hanging all over him in the redzone.
  • The 7-on-7 period in general was a strong one for the Trojan offense. Darnold tossed touchdowns to Burnett and a wide open Steven Mitchell. He should have had another one but Tyler Petite dropped a sure-fire score in the endzone. The tight end did extra work after practice catching passes from Darnold.

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  • USC once again pitted the wide receivers and cornerbacks against eachother with a one-on-one period. The receivers got the best of their counterparts for the most part.
    • Iman Marshall was beaten on his first two reps as Jalen Greene and then Velus Jones took advantage of his aggression on comeback routes. Marshall came back with a vengeance on his final rep, breaking up a slant intended for Jones.
    • Burnett completed an impressive, diving catch past Isaiah Langley during his first battle, but it would be his last of the period as he landed hard on the ball and had the wind knocked out of him.
    • Steven Mitchell beat Jack Jones on an out route, but defensive backs coach Ronnie Bradford was full of praise for his cornerback, who did everything right on the rep.
    • Trevon Sidney should have completed a catch against Jalen Jones, but the receiver dropped the simple slant.
    • Tyler Vaughns nearly bested Ajene Harris with a diving catch towards the sideline, but the ball popped out from under him as he rolled.
  • Jake Olson once again got the chance to snap at the end of USC’s field goal period. His first snap skidded past the holder but given a second shot at it the blind longsnapper got the job done.