USC Football Fall Camp Notes: Running backs, quarterbacks excite on Day 5

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

Day 5 of USC football Fall Camp gave the Trojan offense something to celebrate with long runs and scoring success in the red zone.

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It took five days, but USC football’s offense finally had their share of the fun at Fall Camp on Wednesday.

In the first full pads practice of camp, the Trojan offense showed some signs of what it could be during a live-tackling Team Run segment, mini-scrimmage and red zone period.

Practice ended with the quarterbacks facing each facing a red zone situation and each produced a touchdown. Fink’s came via a handoff to Vavae Malepeai. Sears hit Stephen Carr for a score. Then JT Daniels, who failed on his first series, got a do-over and finished off the day by delivering a strike to Tyler Vaughns in the end zone.

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“Any time you get into the redzone the windows become tighter, you’ve got to get the ball out quicker. And to be able to see how they executed from the 25 and in today was good to see,” head coach Clay Helton said after practice.

The success started well before that red zone period with the mini-scrimmage promised by Helton on Tuesday.

Sears commanded the offense smoothly against the first team defense for two scores, the first a swing pass to Carr and the second to tight end Tyler Petite.

Fink’s first pass during the period was a 40-yard bomb to Velus Jones.

“I’m pleased,” Helton said. “Now I’m going to go watch the tape and hopefully I’m still pleased afterwards.”

As much as the quarterbacks offered encouragement, it was the running backs who stole the show during the Team Run segment.

Carr led the way, showing no ill-effects from the back surgery which held him out of Spring Camp. He broke free for a 40-yard touchdown, spoiled only by a taunted penalty tacked on for pointing at a trailing defender.

Meanwhile Vavae Malepeai and freshman Markese Stepp each ripped off a long run after breaking a tackle or two. Senior Aca’Cedric Ware also run efficiently.

“To see the success that four good runners had in that period, as well as the offensive line, really fired me up,” Helton said. “It’s going to be something that we’re going to need especially with a young quarterback. I’ve always said a run game is a quarterback’s best friend.”

That’s not to give the impression the defense was run all over on Wednesday. In fact, Clancy Pendergast’s side of the ball seemed to have the offense bottled up for most of the run period, giving ground just a few times for those highlight runs.

Practice standouts

  1. Stephen Carr:
  2. Jack Sears: The offense seemed to move most smoothly in Sears’ hands on the day. He was 5-of-5 with two touchdowns in the mini-scrimmage.
  3. Palaie Gaoteote: The true freshman linebacker commanded his second-team reps with confidence and made plays around the ball during the Team Run.

Notes and tidbits

  • The presence of referees meant a plethora of flags through, mostly for false starts on the offensive line. “It always happens, that’s why we bring in the referees early so guys get reality checks,” Helton said.
  • There were other offensive miscues as well. Toa Lobendahn continued his snapping woes, eventually being pulled for Brett Neilon for a series. But Helton wasn’t open to the prospect of moving the senior if the issues continue: “We’ll get it fixed.”
  • Isaiah Pola-Mao, Rueben Peters and Kana’i Mauga logged pass breakups.
  • Gaoteote, Pola-Mao, Levi Jones, Christian Rector, Jay Tufele, Hunter Echols, and Talanoa Hufanga had impact tackles near or behind the line of scrimmage while Caleb Tremblay had a sack on Fink.
  • The Trojans will be back in shells on Thursday before holding a light practice on Friday. Then they’ll be in the Coliseum for a full pads scrimmage on Saturday.