USC Football Fall Camp Notes: Two-minute troubles for QBs on Day 12

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

Day 12 of USC football Fall Camp featured defensive dominance of the two-minute period as the Trojan QBs struggled with decision-making.

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Fall Camp always brings with it a zero-sum game. Every great play a defensive player makes could mean a bad play for the offense and vice versa. Such was the case for USC football on Day 12 of camp, going both ways.

On the one hand, the Trojan offense was electric during a 7-on-7 redzone period which featured six touchdowns

Jack Sears went 6-of-8 in the period, slinging a touchdown to Amon-Ra St. Brown. Matt Fink was 4-of-5 with two scores to St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns. JT Daniels one upped them both going 5-of-5 with three touchdowns, one each to Randal Grimes, Velus Jones Jr. and Devon Williams.

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On the other hand, USC’s secondary came out second best, watching Greg Johnson, Isaiah Pola-Mao, Olaijah Griffin, Isaac Taylor-Stuart and Isaiah Langley give up scores.

As is often the case, though, the defense got their revenge a short while later in the 11-on-11 two-minute drill, when the pass rush proved the great equalizer.

Sears made a critical error on the first play of the series, throwing the ball straight at Ajene Harris, who took it to the house.

Daniels surpassed Sears only in that it took him two passes to see the ball coming the other way. After finding Josh Falo for a nice gain, Rueben Peters came up with an interception, much to the delight of his defensive teammates.

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And it didn’t get much better. Sears’ next series moved backwards, featuring a substitution penalty and sacks by Kana’i Mauga and Hunter Echols. It ended with Isaiah Langley snagging a desperation pass from the quarterback downfield.

Though Daniels showed good pocket awareness on his next series, he was ultimately swarmed by the defense on consecutive plays and the drive amounted to nothing.

Fink, the odd man out in the QB rotation on Thursday, didn’t get a series to either salvage or add to the woes.

“I thought there was some decision-making in our two-minute situation that obviously they want to have those throws back,” head coach Clay Helton said after practice, framing the slip ups as teaching moments.

“Part of putting them in those situations is learning from failures and hopefully they’re turn into successes next time,” said Helton.

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During this Saturday’s scrimmage, the quarterbacks will get another chance to prove themselves in a two-minute situation, but they won’t expect the defense to go any easier on them.

Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will continue to throw pressures at the quarterbacks, making it as hard as possible, the head coach insisted.

“I don’t want an easy world right now,” Helton said. “We’ll build confidence in football games.”

Practice Standouts

  1. Amon-Ra St. Brown… The freshman receiver continues to tear it up, catching two touchdowns during the 7-on-7 period, both impressive catches beyond a tight defender.
  2. JT Daniels… Despite his interception, Daniels did look the better of the two quarterbacks who participated in the two-minute offense and he shined brightly during the 7-on-7 period with three touchdowns showing off his range of passing and accuracy.
  3. Randal Grimes… Grimes had the highlight of the day, reaching out with one hand to haul in his touchdown from Daniels in the back corner of the endzone.

Notes and Tidbits

  • Sliding protections… Daniels has found many ways to impress this Fall Camp and Helton mentioned yet another on Thursday when asked about quarterbacks and protections. During Wednesday’s practice, Daniels slid a protection in response to safety Marvell Tell changing something on defense. The head coach highlighted the heads up moment to the team. “I thought that was a heck of a deal for an 18-year-old kid to be able to notice that from a vet.”
  • Cooling off… The Trojans finished off practice by going next door to jump in the pool, some from a higher vantage point than others. All of USC’s seniors climbed to the top of the high dive and jumped off, along with Helton himself and blind longsnapper Jake Olson. Even injured linebacker Porter Gustin made the plunge. “They wouldn’t let me do a flip or I would have,” Gustin said.
  • Mental reps… Cameron Smith is slowly returning from a hamstring injury, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t being prepared for the coming season. Helton said he’s still getting plenty of “mental work” in USC’s morning walkthrough and in other ways around the practice field. “Sometimes being a coach and having to focus on each and every play when you’re not in an having to train younger kids is actually a help sometimes.”
  • Langley seasoned, Johnson hungry… Isaiah Langley and Greg Johnson continue to trade off days with the first team at cornerback, locked in a battle which may see both of them see action by the season’s start. “They’ve upped their level,” Helton said. “I think they’ve made each other better the way they’re competing.” The head coach sees both of them playing against UNLV.
  • Johnson rising… What’s different for Johnson from last year when a shoulder injury necessitated his redshirt? “He’s always had skillset and now he has knowledge,” Helton said.
  • Limiting explosive plays… Last year USC was particularly vulnerable to long passing plays. What will change for the defense this year? Helton pointed to a secondary bolstered by depth and experience, one which will be fresher as more players see action.
  • Getting ready for Saturday… Friday’s practice is slated to be a “specialty practice” with an emphasis on special teams and situational mastery. Like last week, the day will have more of a walkthrough feel as the Trojans prep for Saturday’s live scrimmage.