USC football Spring Camp notes: Offensive line trending up (3/30)

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

Practice standouts

  • Jay Tufele… On a day in which Tufele had at least one sack, Helton praised the redshirt sophomore for playing at “maybe the highest level on the defensive line” this Spring.
  • Jacob Lichtenstein… Lichtenstein was constantly in the backfield on Saturday, playing a part in two sacks.
  • Michael Pittman… Pittman was an available target for the quarterbacks throughout the day, catching a redzone touchdown from JT Daniels, a long bomb from Jack Sears and another deep shot from Matt Fink.

Highlights and tidbits

  • Defensive end Nick Figueroa lined up with the first team opposite Christian Rector.
  • Cornerback Greg Johnson and receiver John Jackson III returned to practice after missing Thursday.
  • 1v1 segment:
    • Devon Williams had an embarrassing drop to end the period after demolishing Dominic Davis with a double move. Fortunately, he was impressive in enough moments to make up for that. He made one of the more impressive catches of the day, bursting to the sideline to make up ground on what looked like an overthrown ball from Kedon Slovis.
  • Red zone 11-on-11 segment:
    • Daniels went 3-of-4 with a touchdown to Michael Pittman over the middle. He evaded pressure well on the first play of the segment and handled a blitz from nickelback Chase Williams well by dinking the ball overhead for Erik Krommenhoek.
    • Brandon Pili swallowed up Stephen Carr for a tackle for loss.
    • Fink went 1-of-3 with the second team. He nearly threw an interception to Kana’i Mauga across the middle but Markese Stepp dropped his next attempt. A swing pass out to Quincy Jountti in the flat almost surely would have been a touchdown in a live tackling situation despite Mauga’s attempt to close down the play.
    • Slovis went 3-of-5 including a touchdown pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown while rolling to the right.
    • Sears was 1-of-3, missing a couple of passes too high.
  • 7-on-7 segment:
    • Fink went 5-of-6, mostly working routes underneath.
    • Slovis was 5-of-5, largely keeping it simple.
    • Daniels was 4-of-6. He had a ball tipped and mostly found success hitting receivers on slants.
    • Sears was 5-of-5 in his best segment of the day. He provided the lone highlight, going long for Pittman on the left sideline.
  • Practice ended with a competitive live tackling period in the red zone.
    • Starting at the 10 yard line, Slovis led the first team offense against the first team defense. He lasered a pass through the middle of the defense to hit Erik Krommenhoek in the center of the end zone on third down.
    • Fink led the second team segment. Figueroa stopped the quarterback as he attempted to scramble on first down, then Lichtenstein sacked him on second down. On third down, Fink wiped all that away by tossing a pass over the middle at the perfect height to find Jack Webster to complete the offense’s win.

News and notes

  • Right people, right place… Helton praised defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast for not just simplifying USC’s defensive scheme, but for more effectively using different personnel groupings with new packages. “They’re really doing a nice job personnel-wise of putting the right people in the right situations on the right down and distance,” he said.
  • Two back sets… One feature of the Trojans new offense is the ability to run the same plays with different personnel groupings, Helton explained on Saturday. Because of a shortage of tight ends, USC has started using two running back sets, with one of them essentially taking on the role of the tight end either as an extra blocker in pass protection or as a pass catching threat.
  • The next Stepp… Stepp has established himself as a runner, Helton said. He’s also “captured the essence of the offense” as far as his understanding of where to be and what to do. But his next step? “Now it’s about being an every-down back.” With multiple drops on Saturday, it’s clear he still needs to work on his pass catching ability. On the plus side, his showing in a pass protection drill with blitzing linebackers was noticeably improved from Thursday.
  • Six more practices… USC has six more practices left in Spring Camp and five of those will be in full pads, Helton said. The six is a required outing in just helmets.