USC football Spring Camp notes: Defensive line trimmed down, playing up (3/21)

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 /

Practice standouts

  • Marlon Tuipulotu… Tuipulotu had a run stuff in the live tackling 11-on-11 period and continued to set the tone with a tackle for loss at the goal line
  • Amon-Ra St. Brown… St. Brown made a couple of highlight plays, taking a short pass from Jack Sears and turning it into a long touchdown during 11-on-11 before hauling in a deep throw from JT Daniels.
  • Isaac Taylor-Stuart… Taylor-Stuart was praised by defensive backs coach Greg Burns for noticeable improvements in his technique and he put that to good use by covering well in the 1v1 period. He also reached up and tipped a ball intended for Josh Falo during the two-point conversion contest which ended the day.

Practice tidbits

  • The two-point conversion contest was the highlight of practice. Matt Fink, Sears and Daniels were each given three reps to convert a two-point conversion.
    • Fink went two-for-three with a scoring pass to Falo and a quick swing pass to Markese Stepp, who lowered his shoulder and collided with Jordan Iosefa at the goal line, momentum carrying him into the endzone. His final rep was Taylor-Stuart’s crowning moment.
    • Sears went one-for-three. His first play was a quick hit to Devon Williams. His final two reps were less successful. First he was sacked by Stanley Ta’ufo’ou. Then he was stopped short of the goal line by John Houston on a QB keeper.
    • Daniels also went one-for-three. He too converted his first rep by hitting St. Brown in the corner of the endzone. However, his second attempt on the other side to Williams was too far out of bounds for the receiver to keep his feet in play for the conversion. Finally, Connor Murphy cut out his passing lane on the edge, batting down the pass to end practice on a high for the defense.
  • Jay Tufele had a tackle for loss during the 11-on-11 live tackling period.
  • Isaiah Pola-Mao intercepted Sears during the 7-on-7 red zone period.
  • Daniels completed two touchdowns in the same period, finding Tyler Vaughns over the middle and Falo on a fade.
  • Fink hit walk-on Matthew Hocum for a touchdown to close out his red zone segment.
  • Stepp scored a touchdown at the goal line during 11-on-11 play.
  • Sears tossed a touchdown to Vaughns at the goal line as well.
  • Center Justin Dedich struggled with his snapping, putting multiple tosses at the quarterback’s feet.

News and notes

  • 95 percent the same… Despite USC’s defensive alignments changing somewhat this spring, favoring a bigger front with a more traditional defensive end, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said his defense is “95 percent the same” with no shift away from single-gap concepts. Aside from adjusting the front to better suit the personnel, Burns also said the defense has been simplified to include fewer calls.
  • Scrimmage on Saturday… USC’s Saturday practice will include a situational scrimmage, with more tackling expected. Pendergast said he is looking for consistency from his defense as well as solid situational football.
  • Greg Johnson back… Pendergast is happy to have cornerback Greg Johnson back in the fold. “Getting his experience back is big for us,” Pendergast said. “I see some improvement from him so I’m glad he decided to stay.” Burns credited Johnson with showing some more confidence this spring, going for the ball rather than playing it safe in coverage.
  • Drake “Big Cat” Jackson?… Pendergast had a lofty comparison for early enrollee Drake Jackson. He likened him to Leonard Williams, or Rasheem Green with “better feet.” The versatile lineman is working on the edge for the Trojans this spring, benefiting from the occasional absence of Christian Rector, who has class on Thursday. That means Jackson will see first team reps at least one day a week. “He’s everything we expected,” Pendergast said. “He’s big, he’s physical. He’s quick. He’s very smart. He’s been coached very well. The game’s important to him. He’s a guy that loves football.”
  • Just finish… The Trojans are hoping Rector will benefit from a simplified role in 2019. Instead of flipping from left to right in the Predator spot, he is occupying the defensive end spot on the right. Staying on one side should allow him to focus on his footwork and technique, always going with the same hand on the ground and always going up against the left tackle, Pendergast said. Rector was productive in 2018, but he was also just shy of where they want him to be, around the quarterback, but short of the sack. “He’s just got to finish,” Pendergast said.