USC football’s first team offensive line has taken a step forward, according to head coach Clay Helton, as the Trojans completed their ninth day of Spring Camp.
One of the most visible changes to USC football Spring Camp this year has been the presence of a crew of referees at each practice.
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Those officials had a lot to do in the opening weeks of practice, but now finishing up Week 3, the zebras were mostly just there to graze.
Head coach Clay Helton was happy to report that through the last two days of practice, the Trojans were hit with just one penalty flag—a false start on Saturday at Howard Jones Field. That’s 200 snaps of nearly clean play, a side effect of USC’s emphasis on fundamentals and technique this offseason, Helton said.
“I’m watching the tape and I’m not seeing a bunch of holding calls. I’m not seeing us out of position,” he said. “I think we’re doing the proper things, not only to win our matchups but to not create penalties.”
Penalties have been fewer in recent practices, but they carry the same consequence as they did at the start of camp.
“As soon as the right tackle jumped offsides, he’s out,” Helton said. “They understand what comes with that type of error.”
Though it was an offensive lineman who spoiled USC’s perfect day on the penalty front, it was the offensive line which drew the most praise from Helton on Saturday.
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“I think they’ve taken a real step forward, both in the run game and in pass protection,” Helton said.
The first team up front has hardly changed this spring, which has seemed to build familiarity and chemistry up front between Austin Jackson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Brett Neilon, Andrew Vorhees and Jalen McKenzie, from left to right.
The two tackles, Jackson and McKenzie, received special praise from the head coach for their leadership over the past few weeks.
“They’re being vocal. They’re being dominant. They’re being physical,” Helton said.
Helton credited offensive line coach Tim Drevno for instilling the right confidence and demeanor in the offensive line, who are largely “doing the right thing” so far this spring.
That feels like an accurate assessment of the first team offensive line, but things have appeared shakier for the second team line, which includes multiple players working in new positions.
As with all things in Spring Camp, the focus remains on getting better instead of dwelling on the areas which have already improved.
Helton “couldn’t be happier” about the level of progress from Day 1 to Day 9, but he issued a challenge to the offense to pick up the tempo in Week 4.
“We’re not perfect yet. I still think we can play at a faster pace,” he said. “But they’re headed in the right direction.”