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 /
2 of 2
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

Practice standouts

  • Solomon Tuliaupupu… Tuliaupupu made himself known in his first full, and healthy, practice as a Trojan. He batted down several passes in coverage and earned cheers from his teammates. After practice, Iosefa made a particular point of praising his passion and competitive spirit.
  • Briton Allen… Allen was also participating in his first collegiate practice and he was thrown straight to the wolves, taking first team reps at cornerback because of major depth problems. It wasn’t a perfect outing, but he didn’t look out of his depth in the slightest and showed a real instinct for locating and attacking the ball in the air. That’s how he broke up an endzone fade intended for Devon Williams during 1-on-1 drills.
  • Michael Pittman… Pittman was USC’s best receiver in 2018 and he hasn’t missed any beats. He made several nice catches in 1-on-1s and caught a touchdown pass during the final 11-on-11 period. Unfortunately, he also drew a flag for spiking the ball in celebration.

Practice tidbits

  • USC’s depth problems in the secondary weren’t helped by the absence of redshirt junior safety C.J. Pollard. Talanoa Hufanga and Isaiah Pola-Mao took first team reps in non-contact work, but the only depth behind them was walk-on safety Jordan McMillan.
  • Linebacker Raymond Scott worked exclusively at nickelback along with cornerback Chase Williams, who took first team reps at the position.
  • Just three scholarship defensive backs were available to play cornerback. Isaac Taylor-Stuart and Allen took first team reps. Dominic Davis appeared to be a limited participant.
  • Erik Krommenhoek took first team reps at tight end over Josh Falo.
  • In a four wide receiver set, the Trojans fielded Tyler Vaughns, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Michael Pittman and Devon Williams all at once. As concerning as USC’s wide receiver depth is, that’s a fairly formidable front line to deploy.
  • Jay Tufele and Marlon Tuipulotu took first team reps on the defensive line while Christian Rector and Connor Murphy worked on the ends.
  • While John Houston and Palaie Gaoteote composed USC’s first team at inside linebacker, Jordan Iosefa has also shifted inside along with Kana’i Mauga.
  • As expected, the first team offensive line, going left to right, was Austin Jackson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Brett Neilon, Andrew Vorhees and Jalen McKenzie.

News and notes

  • Timetable for the QBs… USC won’t be deciding its quarterback competition until Fall Camp, but Helton intends to give every player, quarterback and otherwise, a sense of where they stand coming out of Spring Camp. He says he will sit down with every player and let them know what the lineup would be if they were going to play a game that day. “I am going to provide clarity to those quarterbacks of where they stand at the end of spring ball,” Helton said. “I think that’s fair to them. But I don’t want anybody comfortable.” It’s a long way from Spring Camp to the Fall and Helton wanted it made clear that things can change.
  • Unscripted practice… Half of USC’s practice on Tuesday was unscripted, according to Helton. Harrell calls plays during practice the way he would during a game, getting up above and using a headset. It’s about training himself and the offense for calling plays in the fall, Helton said.
  • Defensive back depth… USC’s defensive back depth is critically low as Spring Camp begins, thanks to graduations, transfers and other departures. They don’t even have a full two-deep across the secondary. That means the Trojans will have to tread carefully when it comes to 11-on-11 action this spring. Helton indicated they may have to take time during those segments to give the few defensive backs available time to breath, monitoring reps as they go along.
  • Transfer portal updates… Just before the start of camp, cornerback Greg Johnson and receiver Velus Jones Jr. put their names in the transfer portal. Helton said both of those decisions were personal and he will keep it that way. “Right now, they are in the portal and if something changes I’ll let you know,” he said. Pittman was a bit more optimistic about his receiver teammate. Though he declined to speak on the personal nature of Jones Jr.’s decision, he said the slot receiver was still working through his decision and is “not out the door yet.”
  • Announcing Ausmus… Helton formally announced the hiring of new strength and conditioning coach Aaron Ausmus, pointing out his presence when Pete Carroll won a national title in 2003, his tenure at two SEC programs and his work with the 2010 team at USC which helped to yield an excellent 2011 season. “[With] the staff that he’s putting together I know will produce a great football team,” Helton said.
  • Coaching chemistry… Building chemistry between USC’s new coaches and the players has been a process the Trojans have been working on since Signing Day, Helton said. Coaches were able to meet with their players for two hours a week and they took full advantage of that while also being on hand for every strength and conditioning workout.
  • Tribute to Garry P… Helton opened his post-practice scrum by paying tribute to publisher Gary Paskwietz, who passed away earlier this year, calling him “a great Trojan and a great professional.”