Cornerback Greg Johnson was back on the practice field for USC football as the Trojans kicked off Day 2 of Spring Camp on Thursday.
USC football’s turbulent offseason stretched right up to the start of Spring Camp when Velus Jones Jr. and Greg Johnson opted to put their names in the transfer portal.
By Thursday, the word on both was far more positive than it had seemed.
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While Michael Pittman’s comments about how Velus Jones Jr. is “not out the door yet,” perked up ears on Tuesday, the Trojans got an even more encouraging sign from Johnson on Thursday. The redshirt sophomore cornerback was present and dressed for practice on Howard Jones Field.
The Trojans could certainly use his presence. On Tuesday they practiced with just three scholarship cornerbacks, and one of those, Dominic Davis, is limited by injury.
Johnson made it four on Thursday, though that too was short-lived. Freshman Briton Allen, who was one of the stars of Day 1, came up injured after breaking up a pass intended for Michael Pittman in the 1-on-1 goal line segment. He sat out the remainder of practice, ensuring plenty of reps for Johnson, who is himself limited by last season’s shoulder injury.
“It definitely helps,” defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said of Johnson’s return. “We have a few guys coming in the fall but we’ve got to get through the spring.”
Head coach Clay Helton confirmed that Johnson was in the transfer portal on Tuesday, but it is not known if he remains inside.
Either way, his decision to suit up lends credence to the idea that he is open to a full return for the Trojans. Helton was not available to the media on Thursday to clarify, but he will be able to update Johnson’s situation on Saturday.
Even with Johnson available to practice, USC’s depth problems in the secondary were once again on display.
However, Pendergast opted to look on the bright side, with players like Isaac Taylor-Stuart seeing more quality reps than he normally would have been afforded. The defensive coordinator praised him for two strong practices so far.
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Helton suggested on Tuesday that limited numbers might force USC to give the defensive backs some extra breathers during team segments, and there was at least one timeout in 11-on-11 play on Thursday.
Still Pendergast played down the impact of the thin secondary.
“It’s not going to hold us back at all. We’ve got our menu and we’ll go ahead and install that in the spring and we’ll let it ride,” Pendergast said.
“The good thing is those guys that can’t go full right now, they’re going to be there in the fall,” he added.