USC football practice notes: No more “No-Pads November” (10/31)

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

USC football will not continue the “No-Pads November” tradition in 2018, head coach Clay Helton said after the Trojans Wednesday practice.

MORE. Playcalling Takeover Explained

Over the last two years, USC football has gone away from full pads practices in November in an effort to keep the team fresh at the tail end of a long season.

In 2018, “No-Pads November” is no more.

Head coach Clay Helton confirmed the change on Wednesday. The Trojans were back to shorts and shells for their second day of practice ahead of the Oregon State game, but next week they will return for a Tuesday practice in full pads, unlike previous Novembers.

More from Reign of Troy

“That’s something our seniors want this time around,” Helton explained. “They want a sense of urgency to have a great November.”

Helton commended the seniors for their attitude, singling them out during the team meeting on Tuesday with clips of the likes of Marvell Tell, Ajene Harris, Cameron Smith and Iman Marshall practicing hard.

The examples struck a cord with USC’s younger players, according to Helton. He enjoyed watching Marshall and receiver Michael Pittman go at each other in one-on-ones, only to see freshman receiver Devon Williams and cornerback Olaijah Griffin match that intensity in their one-on-one matchup.

With the Trojans sitting at 4-4 and still clinging to some narrow hope of winning the Pac-12 South, intensity will be needed for the final four matchups of the season, starting with the road trip to Corvallis to face Oregon State this weekend.

Notes and tidbits

  • Fresh arm… Quarterback JT Daniels practice for the second time since returning from a concussion this week and looked sharp. Helton noted a silver lining to Daniels’ injury situation. “I think the week off really has allowed him to get a little bit fresher body-wise and arm-wise,” Helton said.
  • Cam’s back… Cameron Smith was able to practice fully for the second straight day, crossing another hurdle towards returning to the lineup on Saturday. Helton and defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast were both quick to praise the job done by backup Palaie Gaoteote filling in for Smith, but each made it clear having the senior captain back would make a difference. “He’s the quarterback. Any time you have the quarterback of that defense leave you for a couple of weeks it’s different,” Helton said. Smith’s experience as well as his knowledge of defensive calls, pressures and formations should boost the defensive this week while also taking responsibility off the shoulders of weakside linebacker John Houston, who has been running the defensive huddle for the last two weeks.
  • Interim coach… With offensive line coach Neil Callaway off the staff and running backs coach Tim Drevno taking on his responsibilities, Helton promoted graduate assistant Mike Goff to become USC’s interim 10th coach. Goff has been a GA for the Trojans for the last three years. He will assist Drevno on the offensive line, providing a second pair of eyes as the unit transitions in practice and also on game day.
  • Offensive line focus… There’s only so much Drevno and Goff can achieve in the short time left in the season, but Helton laid out his emphasis on Wednesday: “The biggest thing for me that I want to see moving forward over the next four weeks is just the technique and fundamentals part of it.”
  • More staff changes?… Asked about more staff changes down the line, as well as Drevno’s long-term role as an assistant, Helton deferred to the end of the season. “I’m going to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together after the season,” Helton said. “I just want to focus right now on our team getting ready for a great November and a bowl game.”
  • Jermar Jefferson… Oregon State running back Jermar Jefferson is the Beavers’ danger man on offense. He is a patient running with good eyes and explosiveness once he hits the hole, according to Helton and Pendergast. “They have a lot of faith in him and he’s carrying the load for them,” said Helton.
  • “Pain in the butt”… The Trojans are familiar with Jefferson even though this is the first time they will face him in an Oregon State jersey. A star at Narbonne, Jefferson stood out to Helton when he scouted high school games. “That one’s going to be a pain in the butt,” Helton recalled saying of the back.