USC Football Practice Report: All eyes on Khalil Tate (11/1)

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 15: Quarterback Khalil Tate
TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 15: Quarterback Khalil Tate /

USC Football has all hands on deck in preparations to stop Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate, plus more from the Trojans Wednesday practice.

As USC Football continued preparations for the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday, the prospect of facing a quarterback of Khalil Tate’s caliber remains a huge concern.

The Trojans know just what kind of unique athlete they need to stop.

“The dude’s breaking 50 yards, 60 yards, that’s not normal for a quarterback,” cornerback Jack Jones said.

“He’s very much a dynamic athlete. He’s a physical runner. He sees the field well in the passing game. And I think he’s gotten better the more he’s played,” defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said.

Tate’s abilities are too great for any one Trojan to mimic, so USC has used a combination of players to prepare the defense, including running-back-turned-cornerback Dominic Davis and freshman wide receiver Randal Grimes.

Grimes was a quarterback and wide receiver in high school so he was already familiar with the position and Arizona’s zone read offense. He stood in as a scout team quarterback for USC once this year, simulating Texas’ wildcat look with Jerrod Heard in Week 3.

Davis, on the other hand, had to learn the zone read from scratch, but his track speed is invaluable for the Trojans as they try to simulate Tate’s blazing pace.

“Both kids have done a nice job of showing the athleticism of the position as well as the speed,” head coach Clay Helton said.

Iosefa in the spotlight

With Porter Gustin out because of a set back with his broken toe, linebacker Jordan Iosefa is once again in the spotlight as he preps to fill in at the predator spot.

Though Oluwole Betiku and Connor Murphy would have been the expected choices to take over for the injured Gustin and Christian Rector, the coaching staff appears to prefer Iosefa’s athleticism against another zone-read offense.

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“I like his athleticism in terms of his ability to change direction,” Pendergast said.

Helton also highlighted Iosefa’s ability to change direction, but it still stands that USC will turn to another out-of-position to fill an injury need at predator.

At the very least, Iosefa has had ample time to prepare.

“He knows the position. He knows how to play it and having a couple good weeks of practice has really helped his play,” Pendergast said.

Carr is available

For the first time in a long time, Helton had no new injury news to report on Wednesday, but he did have a slight update on the health of running back Stephen Carr.

The freshman looks “very promising” to participate on Saturday after getting through another day of practice without issue.

However, Helton cautioned against the idea that Carr will jump straight back into his same role. Having sat out four weeks of action, he is not expected to get a “ton of plays,” but he will be available.

Doing it like Marqise Lee

USC has had some special wide receivers over the past decade, but the greatest of those was Marqise Lee. So when a current Trojan earns a comparison to the electric athlete, it means something.

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Tyler Vaughns got that treatment on Wednesday.

“He reminds me a little bit of Marqise with his transition” Helton said. “He’s able to change directions so fluidly whether its his route running or yards after catch. He kind of glides.”

Vaughns glided his way to six catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday.

Second week of playoffs

After losing to Notre Dame, USC targeted the next for games of Pac-12 action as single elimination games for the division title.

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With one down, there’s still three to go.

“This is our second week of playoffs,” safety Chris Hawkins said. “That’s how we put it, that’s how coach puts it. We know what we’ve got to bring.”

What USC says they have to bring again this week is that same kind of elimination-game kind of energy.

“Last week we came out and played with a lot of energy, 11 hats to the ball, everybody swarming, everybody trusting the man, celebrating together, things like that,” Jones said. “When you’ve got that type of team energy and chemistry, then I feel like no team can be beat.”

The energy level at practice on Wednesday felt higher than normal, or at least more vocal.

Late night game has its perks

USC fans may not be crazy about the Trojans playing another late night game, but Hawkins found the silver lining in the start time.

“It’s a 7:45 game so all the students can drink their beers early and get to the game,” Hawkins said.

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After two consecutive road games, he expects the Coliseum to be “rocking.”