USC Football Fall Camp Notes: QB decision unclear on Day 13

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

Day 13 of USC football Fall Camp was light on action but heavy on questions concerning the upcoming quarterback decision.

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With no helmets in sight and certainly no pads, USC football’s Friday practice held no answers for the quarterback question looming over Howard Jones Field.

Day 13 was a walkthrough, just as the Friday practice a week earlier was ahead of the first scrimmage of Fall Camp. Saturday will bring the second scrimmage, or preseason game as head coach Clay Helton has taken to calling it.

But will that scrimmage bring a decision on the quarterbacks?

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“I don’t have a crystal ball. It’ll be more of a feel,” Helton said, looking forward for the opportunity to reevaluate after a second week of practice.

“If we need a third [to decide], we’ll take a third,” he added.

JT Daniels won the first scrimmage by tossing four touchdown passes in a commanding performance, but Helton singled out Matt Fink for his efforts in Week 2.

For the head coach, the competition is very much alive because of the way the quarterbacks responded to that first big Fall Camp landmark. Fink, he said, had a “tremendous week.”

This Saturday, Fink and Jack Sears will have another shot to prove themselves and cut through the arguably-deserved hype around Daniels.

Like last week, each quarterback will be given two live drives of around eight plays. Each will also get a two-minute drill to navigate. All three will see time with the first team.

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Helton will be focusing on decision-making, particularly the speed of those decisions. After taking too many sacks in last week’s scrimmage, the head coach wants to see his quarterbacks either get the ball out quickly, throw it away or tuck it and run. Whatever happens, he wants it at full speed.

The buzz words are “definite separation.” That’s what Helton will need in order to call the fight.

Fans will want to hear something definitive on that front not long after Saturday. Helton could give them that, but he’s also concerned with the overall ability of the QB room, however the depth chart shakes out.

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“I just want those kids to continue to progress,” Helton said. “All three of them need to get to game ready.”

Notes and Tidbits

  • Brutal honesty… The process of keeping the quarterbacks progressing involves the post-scrimmage meeting Helton had with them last week and plans to repeat this week. Not wanting to leave any player in the dark, Helton will sit down with each quarterback, highlighting what they did right and what they need to focus on correcting in the coming week. That involves brutal honesty, he said.
  • First team reps concern… It’s been suggested the three-man rotation for USC’s quarterbacks has created limited first team opportunities for each. Every day, one quarterback is an odd man out, creating some imbalance. But Helton isn’t worried about that, insisting the quarterbacks have had more than enough reps. “We’ve actually got some sore arms out there,” he said.
  • Situational mastery… Friday’s practice featured walkthroughs for special teams and end-of-game situations. That didn’t make for the most entertaining of practices for onlookers on hand for Salute to Troy, but those are still vital subjects for the team to cover. “Those situations that can win or lose a game for you,” Helton said.
  • Consistent coordinators… Asked about cornerback Isaiah Langley’s progress as he competes for a starting job, Helton noted the seniors greater understanding of the scheme. But that doesn’t apply only to Langley. The head coach pointed to a consistent offensive, defensive and special teams coordinator for three years lending the team valuable schematic stability. This team hasn’t had to change terminology or scheme and that is likely to pay dividends in 2018. To prove that specifically, Helton highlighted the lack of assignment busts in the secondary during camp.
  • Gustin running… On Thursday, Porter Gustin jumped off the high dive as part of USC’s senior class bonding. On Friday, he ran 13 miles per hour at 90 percent on the AlterG, or anti-gravity, treadmill. Next week he’ll progress to running on the grass at Howard Jones Field and incorporating change of direction. Then USC will get a sense of his availability for Week 1.
  • Weekend schedule… The Trojans will hobnob with fans Friday night at Salute to Troy, then battle in Saturday’s scrimmage. That will signal the end of Fall Camp, with next week taking on the form of a mock game week.