USC Football Fall Camp Notes: Secondary grabs spotlight on Day 4

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

Day 4 of USC football Fall Camp shifted attention to the Trojan secondary, which generated a couple interceptions and an abundance of pass breakups.

FALL CAMP. Gustin Carted Off, Needs MRI

After three days of the pass rush taking center stage, USC football’s defensive backfield grabbed the spotlight on Tuesday as the Trojans completed Day 4 of Fall Camp.

“I thought the DBs shined, especially some of the veterans making some nice plays sitting on balls and having a chance to make plays on the ball,” head coach Clay Helton said after it was all said and done.

The cornerbacks were the stars of the day. Senior Iman Marshall grabbed a pick six from Matt Fink during the red zone period. Redshirt freshman Greg Johnson picked off a deep Jack Sears attempt. And Isaiah Langley broke up a handful of passes.

More from Reign of Troy

But it wasn’t just the corners. Safeties Marvell Tell, Isaiah Pola-Mao and CJ Pollard made themselves seen and heard with pass breakups for the former and tackles near the line of the scrimmage for the latter two.

Nickelback Ajene Harris also continued his strong camp showing with a couple of pass breakups.

The performance of the secondary reflected on the entire defense, which earned praise from Helton for their work, especially limited the offense to zero touchdowns in the redzone period in 16 plays.

“I thought it was a defensive performance that earned a lot of merit,” Helton said.

Practice standouts

  1. Isaiah Langley: Though the other corners notched interceptions, Langley made a bigger volume of plays in coverage. Defensive backs coach Ronnie Bradford was pleased with his performance, though consistency is still on the front burner.
  2. Iman Marshall: Marshall made the big impact play by jumping Fink’s pass and taking off for the endzone with a caravan of celebrating defenders.
  3. Greg Johnson: When Sears’s pass floated up for Velus Jones Jr. it was Johnson who found the ball and went high to snatch it.

Notes and tidbits

  • There will be a new face joining the Trojans in the coming days, as Helton announced the arrival of JUCO offensive lineman Bernard Schirmer, who is looking to restart his college career on the right foot after getting in hot water for an incident involving a ref and a punch in the junior college ranks.
  • USC will have their first day in full pads on Wednesday, with a mini-scrimmage on tap ahead of Saturday’s full scrimmage. Wednesday will be the first of two straight days in full pads.
  • Helton had planned to two-spot the Team Blitz period but injuries forced the Trojans to revert to running just one series at a time.
  • Despite the interception, Fink had a couple more positive moments to lean on. He hit Tyler Vaughns for what appeared to be a catch-and-run touchdown early in practice, then evaded a pass rusher and used a pump fake to freeze Marshall before tossing a strike to Michael Pittman for a touchdown.
  • JT Daniels was efficient with his passing for the most part, but his most memorable play was also one that could have spelled disaster. Looking for a receiver in the endzone, Daniels’ pass was batted high into the air by a crowd of defenders and looked destined to be picked off before left guard Chris Brown made a heads up play and caught it himself.
  • Sears and Fink both fumbled low snaps, the former from Toa Lobendahn and the latter from Justin Dedich.
  • The defensive line may have been outdone by the secondary, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The front generated five sacks during 11-on-11 periods, with Palaie Gaoteote, Caleb Tremblay and Juliano Falaniko getting their hands on the quarterback.
  • Former Dallas Cowboys head coach Dave Campo was hired at USC this offseason as a consultant and he’s been a visible presence for the Trojan cornerbacks so far. Helton praised him as “not only one of the great coaches in our profession but one of the better DB coaches in our profession in the history of the game.” Having that quality figure will hopefully yield dividends for USC’s secondary.