Day 10 of USC football Fall Camp included signs of progress from the Trojan rushing attack as the offensive line came to play in full pads.
Head coach Clay Helton termed Day 10 of USC football’s Fall Camp practice “Competition Tuesday,” and the Trojans definitely competed in another run-heavy full pads outing.
Last week, the first full pads day also featured a segment with offense and defense going at it live with both sides knowing runs were coming. Though the running backs broke free on a handful of occasions then, the defense appeared to come out of the segment with the advantage.
This week, the offense responded with an encouraging performance despite missing a couple key linemen.
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Tackle Austin Jackson and guard Andrew Vorhees were both out with injury, leaving it to Clayton Bradley and Alijah Vera-Tucker to keep things ticking along in their absence. They did just that with the entire line consistently getting push and opening holes for running backs to exploit.
Senior running back Aca’Cedric Ware took advantage with one of his better days in what had already been a strong camp showing. Along with several more routine runs, Ware shrugged off a tackle attempt by Bubba Bolden and scampered downfield for a long gain before being caught by Iman Marshall.
Redshirt sophomore Vavae Malepeai also ran the ball well, though he had a fumble to mar the outing.
Sophomore Stephen Carr didn’t see as much action as the others, but didn’t seem constrained by the back injury which kept him out of spring ball, which is all the Trojans could want from him at this point.
The progress from Week 1 to Week 2 is more than welcome. Getting the run game going is one of USC’s most important tasks this Fall Camp.
“In these first three games it’s not really going to be about the quarterback,” Helton said. “It’s going to be about us playing great team football.”
That means playing great defense, great special teams and being able to lean on the run game, Helton explained.
Tuesday was a good example of just how that could work out this fall.
- Aca’Cedric Ware: Ware flashed in the Team Run segment, navigating short inside runs while also showing some explosive ability on his long run.
- Alijah Vera-Tucker: Vera-Tucker didn’t skip a beat filling in for Vorhees nor did USC’s offensive line.
- Christian Rector: The defensive end-outside linebacker made impact plays on Tuesday, sacking JT Daniels during the Team Red Zone period and stuffing Ware for a tackle for loss in the Team Run period.
Notes and Tidbits
- Fall Camp standouts…Which under-the-radar players have stood out to Helton so far? Defensive lineman Jay Tufele, linebackers Hunter Echols and Kana’i Mauga, cornerback Greg Johnson, offensive tackle Austin Jackson and offensive guard Alijah Vera-Tucker.
- Raymond Scott feeling more like himself…Scott wore No. 48 during Spring Camp, but changed this week into a No. 18 jersey because it felt more like him. The jersey change has coincided with some promising performances as the linebacker takes advantage of a rash of injuries at the position to see regular second team reps. He recovered Malepeai’s fumble on Tuesday and continues to show promise.
- Passing stats…It wasn’t exactly a banner day for USC’s quarterbacks, though opportunities were limited with the focus on the run game. Matt Fink went 6-of-11 on the day with an 11-on-11 touchdown to Randal Grimes. JT Daniels was 3-of-10 between 1v1s and 11-on-11, with a touchdown to Vavae Malepeai. Jack Sears was the odd-man out in the rotation and wen 3-of-6 without seeing 11-on-11 action outside of the run period.
- 1v1 highlights…The 1v1 red zone period saw Fink hit Jack Webster over Dominic Davis for a touchdown. Daniels tossed two touchdowns to Velus Jones Jr. past Ajene Harris and Davis. Sears was also on the mark in the endzone twice, finding Trevon Sidney against Isaac Taylor-Stuart and Tyler Vaughns against Olaijah Griffin. However, the quarterbacks combined to go 8-for-20 in the period with most of the passes falling incomplete without the chance of a receiver catching them.
- Defense win the final segment…Practice ended with a four-minute offense period which didn’t go near four minutes. Both Fink and Daniels led drives which ended in three plays without a first down as the defense buckled down. Hunter Echols forced a throw away from Daniels on his final play while a false start set Fink’s series back and a Malepeai run was stuffed by Juliano Falaniko to end it.
- Separating the quarterbacks…Helton isn’t looking to make his quarterback decision this week, but the upcoming weekend will be an opportunity to reevaluate with 14 practices, including two scrimmages of information available. “I’m going to sit down after this week and look at the two preseason games and kind of see where we are,” Helton said. “That doesn’t mean I’ll make a final decision.”
- Preparing for the road…The Trojans continue to use speakers to pipe in crowd noise to get players ready for the tough road tests they’ll face early in the season. Tuesday featured backed up punt drills with noise to distract without major incident.