USC football practice notes: Trojans look to get off field on third down (8/29)

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

USC Football’s Wednesday practice ahead of Western Michigan focused on the importance of third downs, especially on defense.

USC Football’s preparations for the season opener against Western Michigan continued on Wednesday with the Trojans turning their attention to the importance of third downs.

“This is a team that can be a no-huddle team and has history on their staff of working no huddle,” head coach Clay Helton said after practice. “Being able to get off the field defensively, where those plays don’t climb up, on what’s going to be a hot day, I think it’s going to be imperative.”

The Trojans held opponents to just 35 percent conversions on third downs in 2016, which was good for 29th nationally.

Meanwhile, Western Michigan converted on an astounding 54 percent of third downs, ranking second in college football.

Helton will look to see his team put in a similar level on those critical downs in 2017, while stopping WMU in their tracks. Of course, the ability to do that all begins on the practice field.

News and Notes

  • Tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe is at 95 percent as Western Michigan approaches. For more, check out Wednesday’s injury report.
  • Cornerback Jamel Cook had to do 10 push ups for dropping a ball during DB drills, but came back and made a one-handed grab in the back of the endzone during another portion. He also plucked a tipped pass out of the air for an interception on Sam Darnold during the 11-on-11 period.
  • Cornerback Jack Jones kept tight to Jalen Greene on a short Sam Darnold attempt during 7-on-7 and successfully broke up the normally routine pass.
  • Cornerback Greg Johnson made quarterback Matt Fink pay for a telegraphed pass to Tyler Vaughns, jumping the pass for what would have been a pick six. After practice, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said he expects him to get more and more playing time as the season progresses.
  • Later, Fink underthrew a long pass for Greene, who drew sure-fire pass interference from Jordan Iosefa when he came back to try to catch the ball.
  • Darnold hit Trevon Sidney and Velus Jones for consecutive long touchdowns during the 7-on-7 period. When USC went to scout team, he tossed a long bomb for Tyler Vaughns. During 11-on-11 he also flung a deep pass for Stephen Carr.
  • Defensive lineman Rasheem Green burst into the backfield during 11-on-11 to log a tackle for loss on walk-on running back Corbin Jountti.

TRENDING STORY: Six Trojans Ready For a Breakout Season in 2017

  • Outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu and defensive lineman Christian Rector each had a sack on Fink and Jack Sears respectively.
  • USC’s kicker situation will be finalized on Thursday. Helton said he will look at the tape from Wednesday’s practice and speak to special teams coach John Baxter, then deliver the news to Michael Brown and Chase McGrath before announcing it publicly. Brown went 2-of-4 on Wednesday with a long of 31, missing from 38 and 43. McGrath was 2-of-5, also hitting from 31, but missing from 38. His attempts from 43 and 52 were blocked.