USC football Spring Camp notes: Change takes center stage on Day 1 (3/5)

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

USC football’s return to the practice field for Spring Camp on Tuesday focused on ownership of last year’s 5-7 record and changes to avoid another slip up.

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It’s been a long three months since USC football players last suited up in cardinal and gold and took to Howard Jones Field in an official capacity. But the Trojans were back on Tuesday with the first Spring Camp practice of the new year.

It was an opportunity for players and coaches to get the bad taste of a 5-7 record in 2018 out of their mouths.

For head coach Clay Helton, this spring will be all about ownership. He told his players that leaders have to own their mistakes.

“For me, the ownership has to be able to identify the mistakes that happened, to be able to make it priority out here at practice, to be able to have a plan, to be able to correct those things and then execute that plan,” Helton said.

Ownership also means fielding a Trojan team with a chip on their shoulder. One that is hungry and has a sense of urgency towards improving, according to Helton.

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Linebacker Jordan Iosefa echoed those comments about urgency. Receiver Michael Pittman has taken the turmoil of the offseason and is using it as fuel to prove everyone wrong.

That’s the beauty of spring camps around the country. No matter how good or bad things may have gone the previous season, every team begins the new year of practice with a sense of possibility.

It’s now on the Trojans to follow through on those promises.

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USC has a squad of new coaches bringing freshness and energy to the practice field, according to Helton. Those include new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, running backs coach Mike Jinks, defensive line coach Chad Kauaha’aha’a, outside linebackers coach Joe DeForest and defensive backs coach Greg Burns.

It was Harrell’s offense which took center stage on Tuesday, as USC debuted a new uptempo practice style. Routes on air flowed like a conveyor belt with quarterbacks delivering passes to receivers on both sides and ends of the field. At one point, a line of four quarterbacks slung the ball out simultaneously to receivers weaving past each other.

The installation of the Air Raid wasn’t the only noticeable change to practice.

In an effort to foster fundamentals and technique, the Trojans devoted 45 minutes to individual drills before shifting into any sort of team action. The periods devoted to individual unit work were notably longer than seasons’ past, giving assistant coaches time to work in more detail with players.

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Attention to detail is a particular emphasis for Helton, who will leave the schemes and installation to his coordinators and coaches. He instead will rove the field looking for opportunities to address his major areas of concern from last year.

“I’m going to be about fundamentals and technique, the discipline of the game, the turnover margin and making sure our guys are competing at the highest level. That will be my role,” Helton said.

Teaching moments popped up as expected on Tuesday.

Referees were on hand, and will be for the remaining 14 Spring Camp practices. When a flag was thrown, Helton set out to correct the issue right away. When running back Vavae Malepeai fumbled, he was there as well.

“We are setting a standard and that standard is the only thing we will accept. Anything less, I’ll address with you immediately,” Helton said.