USC Football Practice Notes: Trojans go away from full pads (10/25)

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

USC Football will go the next four weeks without holding full pads practices in a bid to contend with the wear-and-tear of the season, plus more news from Wednesday’s practice.

Many a fan has questioned the physicality of USC’s practices after seeing Notre Dame overpower the Trojans in South Bend. Don’t expect anything to change going down the stretch, especially after USC practiced for the second time this week without full pads.

During a normal game week, USC would practice on Tuesday in full pads while lightening the physical toll as the week went on, with shorts and shells on Wednesday and no pads on Thursday before a walkthrough on Friday.

To contend with the final month of the regular season, the approach will change.

“We’re in the last four games so we’ve taken the full pads away like we’ve done over the past couple of years,” head coach Clay Helton said.

The “fine line” between going full-speed and physical while also protecting players bodies from the wear-and-tear of the season, especially with no bye, was a talking point on Wednesday.

Considering the injury issues USC has in 2017, the head coach said he wished the team could reach maximum preparation with just a walkthrough, but acknowledged that physical preparation is invaluable.

“We try to give as much live looks as we can,” Helton said, noting the importance of having offensive linemen face a live pass rush.

“You have to be able to go good-on-good. You have to get that full-speed work.”

Just don’t expect USC to start live tackling in practice any time soon.

Correcting Mistakes

Figures responsible for USC’s defense including defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze and linebacker Cameron Smith were all singing from the same hymn book on Wednesday.

Their message: The mistakes from the Notre Dame game have been addressed and corrected.

“I think we should move past that game now. We saw it. We’ve fixed it. We’ve got to move on,” Smith said.

“As competitors, all we can do is look forward to the next game, make corrections and get better,” Udeze said.

“We’ve got those looked at. We’ve got them cleaned up,” Pendergast said. “We wanted to play a lot better and obviously we’re disappointed in the way we played, but we’ve addressed those situations and moved on to Arizona State.”

SEE ALSO: Three Takeaways from USC’s Beatdown to Notre Dame

As to what exactly the Trojans got wrong against the Irish, the three were in harmony as well. Udeze pointed to defensive linemen not getting the details right. Smith and Pendergast pointed to breakdowns in “gap integrity.”

“It can be a physical mismatch. It can be not the proper technique. It could be fitting inside or outside a block when you shouldn’t be inside or outside, where your help is,” Pendergast said. “All those things contribute to poor gap integrity. When you’re playing against a really good team, like Notre Dame, that was well prepared, they were able to find those creases at times.”

USC won’t know until Saturday if the corrections have truly taken hold.

Secondary Solution

With Iman Marshall unlikely to suit up for the Trojans this week because of an MCL sprain, cornerback Isaiah Langley is expected to take on a greater role.

However, Langley isn’t the only option who could see time opposite Jack Jones. Ajene Harris could also make a return to the position

“We have a lot of confidence in [Ykili Ross] at the nickel, so that gives us some flexibility there that we can roll some guys at the corner position opposite to Jack [Jones],” Pendergast said.

Season-ending hip surgery for Jonathan Lockett and a shoulder injury to freshman corner Greg Lewis has thinned the Trojan ranks at corner this year, making Harris a necessary band aid at the position if needed.

Same Offense

Helton has no plans to change up USC’s offense after they scored just 14 points against Notre Dame and have underachieved for much of the season.

“We’ve been doing the same things basically since we started. It’s the same plays. Some of the same plays that were being run by Matt Leinart are still run today,” Helton said. “It’s been the same system and we’ve been really good at it.”

The difference this year, Helton says, is the youth of USC’s squad and injuries. As young players progress and the squad gets healthy, “it’ll be back in full force,” he insists.

CHECK OUT: The Pac-12 South, Not Helton’s Job, Is Now On the Line

The one area Helton concedes adjustments need to be made is on the offensive line, where the Trojans have been forced to lean on true freshmen like Andrew Vorhees and Austin Jackson.

“We’re trying to help our offensive line out a little bit with some younger kids that are having to play, but it’s not like we’re making up new plays right now.”

Double Training Levi Jones

As Jordan Iosefa prepares to take on an outside linebacker role in place of Christian Rector, true freshman Levi Jones is undergoing a similar training regimen. The inside linebacker has spent the last week working on the outside.

More from Reign of Troy

“He’s a guy that, if you look at what he did in high school, he played both. So he demonstrates the ability to either play behind the ball or up on the ball for us,” Pendergast said. “That was one of the things we really liked about him coming out of Austin.”

With USC thin on the outside, Pendergast and company made the decision to double-train Jones, intending to shift him inside and out from week to week.

INJURY REPORT: Christian Rector Leaves Practice With Hurt Hand

Learning another position could limit Jones’ ability to see meaningful action in either spot this season, but Iosefa was able to handle double-training while also seeing playing time as a true freshman.